Pope, Iraq cleric name for peaceable coexistence

Plains of Ur (Iraq), March 6

Pope Francis and Iraq’s top Shiite cleric delivered a powerful message of peaceful coexistence on Saturday, urging Muslims in the war-weary Arab nation to embrace Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority during an historic meeting in the holy city of Najaf.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said religious authorities had a role in protecting Iraq’s Christians, and that they should live in peace and enjoy the same rights as other Iraqis.

The Vatican said Francis thanked al-Sistani for having “raised his voice in defense of the most persecuted” during some of the most violent times in Iraq’s recent history. Al-Sistani, 90, is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam and his powerful political interventions have helped shape present-day Iraq. — Agencies

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