Letter from the Holy Father Francis to the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani

28 February 2023

Unofficial translation

Click here for the Arabic translation

Your Eminence, dear Brother,

I am glad to have the opportunity to address you again after our meeting two years ago in Najaf, which, as I said upon my return from Iraq, “was good for my soul.” It was a milestone in the path of interreligious dialogue and understanding among peoples.

I remember with gratitude the fraternal conversation and spiritual sharing on the great issues of solidarity, peace and defense of the weakest, just as I was edified by your commitment to those who have suffered persecution, preserving the sanctity of life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people.

Collaboration and friendship among believers of different religions is indispensable in cultivating not only mutual esteem, but above all that harmony that contributes to the good of humanity, as the recent history of Iraq teaches us. Our communities, therefore, can and must be a privileged place of communion and a symbol of peaceful coexistence, in which the Creator of all is invoked, for a future of unity on the earth.

Dear brother, we are both convinced that respect for the dignity and the rights of every person and of each community, in particular the right to religious liberty, thought and expression, should be the source of personal and social serenity and of harmony among peoples.

Therefore, it is also incumbent on us, as religious leaders, to encourage those who hold responsibility in civil society, to make an effort to affirm a culture founded on justice and peace and to promote political action that may protect the fundamental rights of each person. In fact, it is essential that the human family rediscover a sense of fraternity and reciprocal openness as a concrete response to daily challenges. To this end, men and women of different confessions, walking together towards God, are called to “come together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmit the highest moral virtues that religions aim for” (Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, 4 February 2019).

My wish is that together Christians and Muslims will always be able to witness to truth, love and hope, in a world marked by numerous conflicts and thus in need of compassion and healing.

I lift my prayer to God, the Omnipotent, for you, your Community, and the beloved land of Iraq.