PLAINS OF UR, Iraq (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ historic visit to Iraq, aimed at rallying the country’s dwindling Christian community after decades of war and unrest (all times local):
Pope Francis is urging Iraq’s Muslim and Christian religious leaders to put aside animosities and work together for peace and unity during an interfaith meeting in the traditional birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, father of their faiths.
He told the gathering: “This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbor.”
Francis traveled to the ruins of Ur in southern Iraq on Saturday to reinforce his message of interreligious tolerance and fraternity during the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, a country riven by religious and ethnic divisions.
With a magnificent ziggurat nearby, Francis told the faith leaders that it was fitting that they come together in Ur, “back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions” to pray together for peace as children of Abraham, the prophet common to Muslims, Christians and Jews.
He said: “From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters. Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion.”
He said there could never be peace as long as Iraqis viewed people of different faiths as the “other.”
He said: “Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity.”
Pope Francis has arrived in the ancient city of Ur for an interfaith meeting aimed at urging Iraq’s Muslims, Christians and other believers to put aside historic animosities and work together for peace and unity.
Francis traveled Saturday to traditional birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews, to reinforce his message of interreligious tolerance and fraternity during the first-ever papal visit to Iraq.
The meeting was taking place in the shadow of Ur’s magnificent ziggurat, the 6,000-year-old archaeological complex near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.
Francis’ interfaith meeting in Ur came after his historic encounter in nearby Najaf with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.