Feb 20, 2021, 9:46 AM
Journalist ID: 1114
News Code: 84235616
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Pope Francis scheduled to meet with Ayatollah Sistani

Tehran, Feb 20, IRNA – Imminent state visit to Iraq by Pope Francis, the Leader of the Holy See, Vatican, is long awaited and prestigious for Iraqi Government especially due to the highly publicized arrangement by Vatican Government for the Pope to meet with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a respectful religious leader.

The visit will be of special significance as it will contribute to softening world public opinion towards the Shia Muslims and the position of the Vatican will be also promoted due to the connection with the Shia Muslims and their elders.

An interview with Dr. Mohammad Masjed Jamei on the imminent visit to Iraq by Pope Francis follows:

Pope is going to stay in the Arab country from March 5 to 8. He wanted to visit Iraq in 2000, which was not accepted due to the then political situation during Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

The top official of the Catholic Church is scheduled to hold talks with top Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Sistani, Masjed Jamei noted.

According to the academic, the upcoming trip is considered as an official visit by a head of state in order to show good relations between The Vatican and Baghdad Governments.

He further pointed to the issue of Christians’ immigration from the war-stricken country, noting that the number of migration of Christian people from the West Asia region seems to be strange, when it comes to observing the current history of the region.

Some news agencies estimate that the Pope trip will pave the way for Iraqi Christians to play a greater role in the Arab country’s political arena, he added.

The visit can be effective for religious understanding and freedom for followers of the Christianity, thanks to the fact that Iraqi community has already enjoyed religious freedom in exercising their social rituals, the professor said.

The Western people consider Vatican as a very important center, which can build bridge between Christians and Muslims, he argued, adding that the pre-planned meeting between Pope Francis and Ayatollah Sistani is a proper opportunity for Vatican to show its capability in this regard.

Asked about the subjects that might be raised in the meeting, the former diplomat said that Popes often don’t discuss specific issues, however, there has been some exceptions.

The point is that both sides completely understand each other, Masjed Jamei said, adding that both the pope and Ayatollah Sistani know the issues of their respective communities.

On Ayatollah Sistani’s way of thinking about interactions among religions and denominations, former Iranian ambassador to Vatican stressed that the Ayatollah has sympathetic feeling towards followers of other religions and denominations.

Ayatollah Sistani has said about Iraqi Sunni Muslims that “The Sunni Muslims are our brothers, and even they are ourselves.”

Masjed Jamei added that he had offered any possible assistance to Iraqi Christians to improve their status.

On the benefits of the Pope’s trip to Iraq, the diplomat underlined that the Iraqi government structure welcomes the trip that would elevate the counties status as one that respects all religions and minorities living in.

This trip has a message for the West that Iraq is not controlled by fundamentalists and enjoys a minimum of religious freedom, and a message to the western public opinion that Iraqi people and regime are not biased, according to Masjed Jamei.

He went on to explain that the Pope has a special position in the Arab world and represents an advanced world without colonial aspects.

Highlighting the assumption made by forces like Zionist Regime that Sunni countries have good ties with the West, while Shias are the foes of the West, Masjed Jamei said that, meanwhile, Vatican has strengthened its relationship with the Sunni Muslims and vice versa. Noting this fact, he underlined that in this context, the Pope’s trip to Iraq can fill the gap and mitigate its negative impact.

He refused to comment on the question that if Ayatallah Sistani would sign the Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living” and stated that what is important for Vatican is the trip per se.

Masjed Jamei confirmed that US President Joe Biden’s faith in Catholicism would bear positive results for Vatican, adding that coordination between the Pope and Biden would have significant effect on the status of Catholic Church in the US, in the one hand; and nullifies evil measures by American Evangelical Protestants against Pope Francis.

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