Intense preparations for Pope’s encounter with Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah

Pope Frances and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, are to meet on Saturday for a groundbreaking encounter at the Holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq. This encounter will resonate beyond Iraq’s borders – certainly in neighboring Iran which is ruled by a militant Islamic regime. The globe-trotting pastor of the Catholic Church will be meeting the reclusive “shepherd” of Shia Islam, an event unprecedented in ecumenical history.

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