SHAFAQNA- Iraqis have Positive reactions to the pope Francis ‘s plan to visit in 2020.
In a Vatican audience on Jun 10, the pope reiterated his desire to visit Baghdad, despite security concerns. He also called out Western hypocrisy for claiming to promote peace while selling weapons abroad.
He added his hope that Iraq “does not return to the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts between regional powers”.
The announcement gained more momentum after Iraqi President Barham Salih’s visit to the Vatican in November in which he encouraged the pope to visit Iraq. A year ago, the patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael I Sako, was elevated to cardinal, one more indication that the pope is paying more attention to Iraq and the future of Christians in the country.
The pope’s visit schedule would probably include the historical city of Ur in southern Iraq, which many believe was the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham. As such, it should be an event of profound symbolic significance that affirms the unity of Iraqis regardless of their religious beliefs since Abraham is known as the father of prophets; this commonality in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic narratives shows the exceptional spiritual significance of Ur for all major faiths in the Middle East.
Positive reactions to the pope’s intention to visit Iraq next year came from Islamic figures as well as Christian ones.
Shiite Muslim leader Jawad al-Khoei, head of the Najaf-based Al-Khoei Institute, said the pope’s visit would be historically significant and would serve as a supporting element for peacemakers and those involved in the Islamic-Christian dialogue in Iraq. Khoei stressed that religious leading figures who advocate for peace and love, whether Muslim or Christian, must work together.
Khoei, the grandson of Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, who was one of the world’s highest spiritual Shiite authorities, said he would love it if the pope visited Najaf, and met Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Khoei believes that both Ayatollah Sistani, and Francis, have a lot in common in the sense that they both wish to establish world peace, in addition to holding top religious posts.
There also was a great deal of interest about the visit in Iraqi Kurdistan. Leading Kurdish figures have visited the Vatican — including Massoud Barzani when he was president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and his successor, Nechirvan Barzani, when he was prime minister — as part of a major diplomatic effort to build relations with the Holy See.
Khaled al-Bir, a top official in the KRG’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, told Al-Monitor, “The request made to the pope to visit the region has been extended by the collective of the Kurdish political leadership during their visit to the Vatican, as well as the region’s representatives in the Vatican and from me personally on multiple occasions in my meetings with the pope”.
Bir said that should the visit to the Kurdistan Region come to pass, it will be a “historical event,” especially after the region welcomed internally displaced persons from different religious minorities, including 138,000 Christians who fled to the region’s provinces after ISIS raided Mosul and the Ninevah Plains, where displaced Christians have recently started returning. The visit could have profound implications on the Christian presence and its status in its historical areas that saw horrors perpetrated by ISIS during the time the group was in control of Nineveh province.
Shortly after being elected in 2013, Pope Francis made friendship between Christians and Muslims a top priority, dw mentioned.
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