After the meeting between Pope Francis and the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s Prime Minister declared March 6 a public holiday. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi announced that the day should become the National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence.
Francis’ visit to the highest Shiite cleric had taken place in the southern Iraqi Najaf – a holy city for the Shiites. The 45-minute conversation was about the cooperation between the religious communities.
The holiday also pays tribute to the interfaith meeting in the plain of Ur, al-Kasimi continued. In Ur the head of the Catholic Church met with representatives of Islam, Christianity and the Yazidis. Unlike expected, Jewish representatives did not take part.
A symbolic place
According to the biblical tradition from the Old Testament, Abraham came from the plain of Ur. The place is therefore important for Muslims, Jews and Christians as all three religions consider Abraham to be the progenitor.
Francis is the first Pope to visit Iraq. In the predominantly Islamic country, Christians are persecuted again and again, and the community has shrunk considerably in recent decades. In the run-up to the trip, there had also been criticism because the Pope was visiting the country in the midst of the corona pandemic.