Pope Francis is to meet top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani during the first-ever papal visit to Iraq in March, a senior Catholic cleric told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Pope Francis is to meet top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani during the first-ever papal visit to Iraq in March, a senior Catholic cleric told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday.
Louis Sako, patriarch of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church, said it would be a "private visit" between the two religious figures at Ayatollah Sistani's residence in the shrine city of Najaf, "without formalities."
Sako said he hoped the two figures would sign the document on "human fraternity for world peace," an inter-religious text condemning extremism.
Pope Francis signed the document with the leading Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, in February 2019.
Sako said the pope was hoping for endorsement from an influential Shiite cleric like Ayatollah Sistani.
"He would represent the second major part of Islam signing on to this historic document," the cardinal told AFP.
Pope Francis is set to be in Iraq from March 5 to 8 with an ambitious programme that will take round the country.
In Baghdad, he will hold a mass at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, where a deadly attack in 2010 left dozens of celebrants dead.
He will also travel north to Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plains, overrun by the ISIS terrorist group in 2014, and the nearby Kurdish regional capital Arbil.
Following his visit to Ayatollah Sistani, he will travel to the ancient city of Ur.
The Pope will hold an inter-religious prayer service there, to be attended by representatives of Iraq's various faiths – Shiite and Sunni Muslim, Yazidi and Sabean, Sako said.