Pope, meeting Iraqi leader, urges work for reconciliation

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi, Pope Francis expressed his hopes that Iraq and other war-torn
countries would have leaders strong enough to bring once-divided peoples

“I wish for Iraqis and for all of us — for the whole
world — leaders like this,” the pope said Feb. 10 as he gave the Iraqi
leader a medallion featuring an olive tree — a sign of peace — that holds together a
split rock.

“Inshallah, inshallah,” al-Abadi replied, using
the Arabic word for “God willing.”

In addition to meeting Pope Francis, the prime minister held
private talks with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

With Islamic State militants still operating in large areas
of Iraq and with the people still recovering from war, the discussions included
“the life of the church in the country” and “the situation of
Christians and ethnic and religious minorities with particular reference to the
importance of their presence and the need to protect their rights,” the
Vatican said in a statement.

“Emphasis was placed on the role of interreligious
dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting tolerance
and peace,” the statement said. “In this context, mention was made of
the importance of the reconciliation process between the various social sectors
within the country, and the national humanitarian and regional situations.”

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