CNA Staff, Mar 6, 2021 / 14:10 pm
Iraq’s prime minister on Saturday declared March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence in honor of Pope Francis’ landmark meeting with the country’s top Shiite cleric.
“In celebration of the historic meeting in Najaf between Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Pope Francis, and the historic interreligious meeting in the ancient city of Ur, we declare March 6 a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence in Iraq,” he wrote.
The pope visited the 90-year-old al-Sistani at his modest home in Najaf, the third holiest city for Shiite Muslims after Mecca and Medina.
Citing a religious official in Najaf, the Associated Press reported that al-Sistani broke with his custom of staying seated to receive visitors, rising to greet Francis at the door of the room where he holds private conversations with guests. The pope reportedly removed his shoes before entering the room.
A statement afterward from al-Sistani’s office said that the cleric affirmed that the country’s Christian citizens should, like all Iraqis, be able to live in security and peace, freely exercising their constitutional rights.
After the meeting -- which marked a milestone in relations between the Catholic Church and Shiite Islam -- the pope traveled to the Plain of Ur, where he took part in an interreligious gathering.