Amazing. Read on:
The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq and a number of monks held the first mass in 1,500 years in one of the oldest monasteries in the Iraqi city of al-Hira (south of Najaf), and met with the top Iraqi Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Hira had been a spiritual capital for Christians, and was a destination for monks for more than 500 years before the introduction of Islam to the country. There are 33 monasteries between Najaf and Kufa, some of which were only discovered recently. However, the majority of the monasteries in this region have yet to be rediscovered.
The Christian delegation — which included the Vatican’s ambassador Giorgio Lingua, the head of Iraq’s Christian Endowment, the endowment’s general inspector and 15 pastors — met with Sistani.
During a press conference, Archbishop Lingua said Pope Benedict XVI “is very concerned with the situation of Christians in Iraq, and has urged them to stay in the country and live their lives naturally.”
He added that “the Iraqi Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to live anywhere within the country, regardless of religion.”
Lingua said: “The visit to Najaf was religious and fraternal, aimed at creating a spirit of love between all religions. It was a positive visit.”