Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis Saturday met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam.

The meeting took place in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf, where he delivered a message of peaceful coexistence, urging Muslims to embrace Iraq’s Christian minority.

The meeting in al-Sistani’s home was months in the making, with every detail painstakingly discussed and negotiated between the ayatollah’s office and the Vatican.

The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide.

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