In March 2023, two years after the apostolic visit to Iraqi land, Iraq will host a Christian-Shiite dialogue conference.
The initiative will involve high Christian and Shiite representatives and it will take place between Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf and will be an opportunity of a meeting and exchange of views in the wake of the historic meeting that took place on March 6, 2021 in Najaf between the Bishop of Rome and Ayatollah al-Sistani. On Friday, December 9, a delegation of authoritative Shiite scholars from Najaf was received in Baghdad by Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church.
The meeting provided the opportunity for a discussion on the contents that will be at the center of the Conference and on some organizational details. The delegation from Najaf included prominent Shiite figures, including Sayyed Jawad Mohammed Taqi Al Khoei (Secretary General of the Al Khoei Institute and co-founder of the Iraqi Council for Interreligious Dialogue) and Sayyed Zaid Bahr al-Ulum, Professor at the Hawza of Najaf, one of the oldest Shia seminaries (hawza) in the world, founded in the 11th century by the great Shia scholar Shaykh Al Tusi.
On the eve of Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq, in an interview with Fides, Patriarch Sako had wanted to draw attention to the phrase of Ayatollah Ali al Sistani which stood out in those days on the posters hung in Iraqi cities, in which the photo of the country’s highest Shiite authority was placed side by side with that of the Bishop of Rome: “Al Sistani” remarked the Patriarch said: ‘You are a part of us, and we are a part of you’. It is a suggestive way of saying that we are brothers”.