Iraq: Catholics-Shiites conference two years after Pope Francis' visit

The 3rd International conference "Catholics and Shiites facing the future. On the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq" will be held in Najaf from the afternoon of 8 until 10 March. The dialogue conference has been organised by the Community of Sant'Egidio together with the Al-Khoei Institute of Najaf. It will be attended by a delegation of the Community including the founder Andrea Riccardi, the president Marco Impagliazzo and Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, Cardinals Ayuso, Coutts and Sako, Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldean, will also be present.

The delegation on the Shia side includes several clerics from the High Shiite Seminary in Najaf, as well as representatives from other Middle Eastern countries and Europe. The conference is scheduled to end on Friday, 10 March, with the final session at the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad. This new phase in the friendship between Catholics and Shiites is part of a journey that began in January 2004, when a delegation from Sant'Egidio, invited to Najaf by Shiite clerics engaged in dialogue in the 'spirit of Assisi', met with Grand Ayatollah Al Sistani. In 2015, the first international Catholic-Shiite Conference took place. It was followed by numerous and varied presences of Shia religious at the International Meetings for Peace, promoted by Sant'Egidio in the "spirit of Assisi". A delegation from Rome was present in Najaf when the Pope and Sistani met in 2021 and also last year, at the invitation of the Al-Khoei Institute, for the first anniversary of the visit. Last July, the second Catholic-Shiite conference, a further step of this journey, was organised in Rome.