Pope Francis has made a historic visit to Iraq and called on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on the second day of his landmark trip.
One of the most powerful figures in Shia Islam Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani met Pope and said the talks had emphasized peace.
Al-Sistani received his guest at his home in the holy city of Najaf.
It is the Pope’s first international trip since the start of the pandemic – and the first ever papal visit to Iraq.
Covid-19 and security fears have made this his riskiest trip yet.
The 84-year-old leader of the Catholic Church earlier told reporters that he had felt “duty bound” to make the “emblematic” journey, which will see him visit several sites over four days in Iraq.
During talks which lasted around 50 minutes Grand Ayatollah Sistani “affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights”.
Iraq’s Christian minority have been hit by waves of violence since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Pope Francis will later travel to the ancient city of Ur, where the Prophet Abraham – central to Islam, Christianity and Judaism – is believed to have been born.
About 10,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel are being deployed to protect the Pope during his visit, while round-the-clock curfews are also being imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus.