POPE Francis held a symbolic meeting with one of the most powerful figures in Iraq on the second day of his landmark trip to the war-ravaged country.
The Pontiff had a 45-minute heart-to-heart with Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani - the nation's top Shia cleric - at the Islamic scholar's home in the holy city of Najaf.
The Catholic leader arrived in a bullet-proof vehicle and as he entered the small house white doves were released - to reflect the peaceful theme of his visit.
After the meeting, Sistani - who rarely meets with prominent figures - called on the world's religious leaders to hold "great powers" to account and for wisdom and sense to prevail over war.
It's reported during the face-to-face Sistani "affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights".
The Pope also called for religious communities to work together.
"(He) underlined the importance of collaboration and friendship between religious communities so that, by cultivating mutual respect and dialogue, we can contribute to the good of Iraq, of the region," the Vatican said after the meeting.
CROSS THE HOLY DIVIDE Pope Francis holds historic meeting with top Shiite Muslim cleric in Iraq in bid to ‘erase the language of war’
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