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  • ۱۳۹۹ شنبه ۲۳ اسفند

The Golden Opportunities of an Exceptional Meeting

Ali Mousavi Khalkhali

The visit to Iraq by Pope Francis I, the head of the Catholic Church, ended on Monday with the official escort of the Iraqi president, Barham Saleh. In general, the Pope’s trips have more cultural and religious aspects than political ones and, in most cases, they take on a religious and cultural flavour. However, perhaps on this occasion, the Pope’s visit also had a political and diplomatic flavour due to his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, at Ayatollah’s home in Najaf Ashraf.
The meeting of the world Catholic leader, who has international prestige for the Christian world, with the supreme authority of the Shiites was an exceptional and historical meeting as it has been an unprecedented phenomenon throughout the history of the Shiites. It can also be understood that this meeting has, for the first time, raised the position of Ayatollah Sistani, the supreme authority of the Shiites, to an international level. 
Another undeniable point that can be deduced from this meeting is the time and  location of the meeting. Prior to this, relations between the Islamic world and the Vatican generally took place through the Al-Azhar, as a Sunni channel. With the Shiites representing a minority in the Islamic world, they have never had such a direct relationship with the Vatican and the supreme representative of the Christian world, which are the majority of the world’s religious followers.
The Vatican leader comes to see the supreme authority of the Shiite world but it seems that the Sunni world does not have its former position as the constituent majority of the Islamic world anymore. Considering that the Sunni centres of the world are in the three countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq (the host country of the Pope), it is obvious that the centrality of the Sunni position is at its weakest historical level, at least in the last century.
In Saudi Arabia, the widespread crackdown on Saudi clerics by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman—about 350 Wahhabi and Sunni clerics—has left the country’s religious clerics in their worst position, at least in the last half-century. In Egypt, after the widespread repression of the Muslim Brotherhood as an ideological-religious movement, the security situation that ruled the country led to severe marginalization of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Azhar and their leaders. 
The scale of this repression and the widespread propaganda against the Muslim Brotherhood and their ideologies has led to the weakening of the leaders of this movement even outside Egypt, including in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Indonesia and Qatar. 
Additionally, the emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria with the atrocities it showed and the horror and hatred it displayed caused the extremist religious current which followed ISIS to be marginalized throughout the Islamic world. This was particularly because during these years the process that arose in the struggle against ISIS and its thought took place, not from the Sunni currents but from the Shiites and with the firm and clear support of the Shiite authority. 
As such, the complete defeat of ISIS in the Arab and Islamic lands increasingly strengthened the position of the Shiites. This was  particularly so during the rule of ISIS in the Islamic lands and the support of some Sunni currents, which was based on a series of tactical miscalculations leading to a severe defeat for both those ISIS and Sunni currents. As a whole, the situation of the Sunnis has been remarkably weakened and has now reached a point for which no authority can be imagined for it in the Islamic world. 
In such a context, the meeting of Pope Francis I with Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf reveals the fact that the Christian world has recognized the position of the Shiite authority as the representative of the Islamic world. As seen in the global media, this meeting was described as a meeting of leaders and high representatives of the two religions, Christianity and Islam. The Christian Church has always attempted to show that it seeks moderation, tolerance and the promotion and expansion of dialogue between religions and religious currents.
That is why Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq and his meeting with the supreme authority of the Shiite world should be considered auspicious. It should be considered as an exceptional, golden opportunity that can change many equations and balances and be remarkably fruitful.


The Christian Church has always attempted to show that it seeks moderation, tolerance and the promotion and expansion of dialogue between religions and religious currents

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