Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 13, 2023 / 17:46 pm
An Iraqi Christian figure involved in a dispute with the leader of the Catholic Church in the country was not, as he has implied online, granted a private audience with Pope Francis, the Vatican clarified on Tuesday.
Rayan Al-Kildani, whose name means “Rayan the Chaldean,” is a Christian lawmaker and leader of the paramilitary group the “Babylon Brigades.” He has previously been sanctioned by the United States for alleged human rights abuses, including the cutting off of a detainee’s ear.
In addition, Al-Kildani has publicly clashed with the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Cardinal Louis Sako, over allegations by Sako that Kildani has been extorting Christians in the Nineveh Plains, a historically Christian but embattled region. Sako also has faulted Al-Kildani for his apparent desire to take over control of the Chaldean Church’s properties in Iraq.
On social media Sept. 7, Al-Kildani shared photos and videos that seemed, at least to some observers, to imply that he had a private meeting with Pope Francis. Al-Kildani released a statement on Facebook after his visit to the Vatican along with photos of the encounter, one of which had been edited to blur the crowds in the background.