Pope Francis has condemned extremism in the name of religion on a historic visit to Iraq where he discussed the plight of the Christian minority.
“Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart,” he told an inter-faith prayer service. “They are betrayals of religion.”
Receiving the head of the Roman Catholic Church at his home in the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Christians should be able to live in peace and security like all other Iraqis.
The meeting was seen as a highly symbolic moment in the Pope’s visit, which is his first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago, and the first ever papal visit to Iraq.
The 45-minute papal meeting in the holy city of Najaf with the 90-year old al-Sistani — who rarely appears in public — represented one of the most significant summits between a pope and a leading Shia Muslim figure in recent years.