The leader of the Catholic church will be meeting with the Muslim religious leader to reportedly discuss the topic of coexistence among other things; A sitting pope has never visited the nation of Iraq.
Pope Francis is set to visit Iraq beginning Friday and is scheduled to stay there until Monday, making this the first time a sitting pope has traveled to Iraq. The purpose of his visit is twofold in nature; to see the oppressed and persecuted and to call for coexistence.
The pope is scheduled to be meeting with the Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, on Saturday. Additionally, fulfilling what Pope St. John Paul II hoped to do over 20 years ago, he plans to visit the alleged birthplace of the Jewish patriarch, Abraham.
On Wednesday, the pope, in a video sent to Rudaw and various media sources, said, “Dear Christian brothers and sisters, who have testified of your faith in Jesus in the midst of extremely hard situations, I eagerly long to see you…I come to you bearing the hope of peace and hope for fraternity and coexistence…I am motivated by the desire to pray together and walk together with brothers and sisters from other religious traditions as well, under the vision of our father Abraham, who unites Muslims, Jews, and Christians in one family.”
According to Vatican News, when former Pope St. John Paul II expressed his desire to visit this portion of the land of the Bible before the year 2000, he stated, “If it be God’s will, I would like to go to Ur of the Chaldees, the present-day Tell el-Muqayyar in southern Iraq, the city where, according to the biblical account, Abraham heard the word of the Lord.”
Warnings surfaced this week after a fourth rocket attack on US military interests occurred west of Baghdad. Regardless, the pope is set to arrive on Friday.