It seems entirely appropriate that two of the most influential faith leaders in the world reached across a religious divide on March 6, the anniversary of Michaelangelo’s birth, to promote peace and unity in a historic meeting.
Pope Francis, 84, the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, 90, the spiritual leader of most of the world’s Shia Muslims, talked for almost an hour during the first ever papal visit to Iraq, the pontiff’s first trip abroad since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Francis, a strong advocate of interfaith dialogue, has met leading Sunni clerics in several Muslim-majority countries, including Bangladesh, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
The most famous work of Michaelangelo (1475-1565), the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, also represents the bridging of a divide: the earthly and the divine, as God reaches to Adam. Today we can see the good that can come of two men of faith coming together.
The artist was famed in his time for his sense of Terribilità – the ability to inspire awe. We should be equally awe-struck by this meeting.
Hopefully, the hand of help that the Pope Francis is handing to the Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali-AlSistani will result in an extension of peace and creation of a new conflict-free era.
Felix Natalis Michelangelo.