Pope Francis preaches tolerance when visiting Ur in Iraq

Pope Francis condemned violent religious extremism on Saturday during an interfaith prayer service at the site of the ancient city of Ur, where the prophet Abraham is believed to have been born.

“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” he told the assembly, which included members of religious minorities persecuted during the three-year rule of the Islamic State group in much of northern Iraq.

The pope called on Iraq’s Muslim and Christian religious leaders to put aside enemies and work together for peace and unity.

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 interfaith tolerance and brotherhood during the first ever papal visit to Iraq, a land torn apart by religious and ethnic divisions.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis held a historic meeting with Iraq’s chief Shia teacher, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and made a powerful appeal for coexistence in a country torn apart by sectarianism and violence.

Their meeting in the holy city of Najaf, during a whirlwind and risky tour of Iraq by Francis, was the first time a pope met such a senior Shia teacher.

After the meeting, Sistani, one of the most important figures in the Shia Muslim world, called on the world’s religious leaders to hold great powers accountable and for wisdom and reason to rule over war.

( Jowharwith AP and Reuters)