MTI reported that the most influential Shiite leader in Iraq, Ali Assyrian Al-Sistine, met with Pope Francis in Nizam on Saturday.
The historic one-hour meeting took place behind closed doors in the humble 90-year-old Sistine home. One of the highlights of the conversation was the fate of the Iraqi Christian community and peaceful coexistence. An Iraqi Pope wearing a group of folk costumes was received in front of his home in Sistan. As a sign of peace, white doves have been released.
According to those close to him, Sistani rarely attends official meetings and has already rejected many Iraqi prime ministers. According to reports from political circles, the Shiite leader was prepared to meet with the Pope on the condition that no Iraqi officials attend.
It is also revered by the foreign Shiite community in Sistan, and many give it. Seldom is a religious leader heard to withdraw, but when it does, it has consequences in his home country. In 2014, for example, he called on men fighters to confront the jihadist Islamic State group that had occupied a large part of Iraq. Upon his connection, they joined the Shiite militias en masse. In 2019, when anti-government protests erupted in Iraq, the then prime minister facilitated Sistan’s speech, Ádil Abdel Mahdi To resign.
Pope Francis arrived on Friday for a historic four-day visit to Iraq, where he has yet to be visited by a Catholic Archbishop.
The Catholic Archbishop visited Iraq, which is predominantly inhabited by Shiites, despite security and epidemiological concerns. Conflicts in the region have impeded the course that had been planned for years. The Pope did not make an apostolic visit to any country for fifteen months due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands are guarded by the Pope’s security, and new checkpoints have been set up in the Iraqi capital as a result of his visit. There were nearly five million Christians living in Iraq in 1947, and they decreased to 1.4 million by 2003 and a few hundreds of thousands by 2015. In Iraq, which now has a population of 38 million, official figures estimated the number of Christians at 590,000, of whom 122 Catholic parishes and 19 bishops serve in the country.