Pope Visit Favors Shia-Catholic Connection; Iraqi Christians Remain Divided

Image depicts Pope Francis meeting with authorities in Baghdad on March 5, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis made history earlier this month when he visited Iraq. Today, Catholic leaders praise the trip as a “milestone” for relations between the Catholic Church and Shia Islam.

Speaking to Crux last week, senior official Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso said:

For what concerns the relationship between Christianity and Shia Islam, the Najaf meeting is a further step forward for the dialogue of respect and friendship with the Shia community both in Iran and in Iraq, in which both the local Church and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which I preside over, have been involved in for years.

“The main impetus of [the pope] coming is a political framework, not a religious or spiritual framework. The outcomes of that are about building relationships between Muslims and Christians,” Samuel* of Redemptive Stories says.

“It was very interesting and very telling that he visited Shia sites and met with Shia leaders as the primary impetus for his travels, which is something most heads of state would never do.”

The Vatican is the world’s smallest independent nation, and Pope Francis is its appointed leader. As described here, “the general politics and governance of the Vatican City are undertaken by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope… The Pope exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive and judicial power over the state of the Vatican City.”

Why it matters

Christianity and Islam appear diametrically opposed. However, Catholic Christians and Shia Muslims may have more in common than meets the eye. More about that here.

“There are a lot of similarities between Shia and Catholics. They have very similar belief systems and structures related to lineage and intermediaries that are needed in terms of their faith system,” Samuel notes.

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SOURCE: Mission Network News,

CALL TO ACTION

  • Pray for peace and unity between Iraq’s traditional and evangelical churches.
  • Pray believers can reconcile their differences and forgive one another.

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