While the three-day visit to Iraq by the leader of the Catholic church Pope Francis ended on March 8, and most of the international media and leaders of the free world called it and especially the Pope’s meeting with the leader of the Shiites in Iraq Ali al-Sistani as historic, not surprising was the reaction of Iran’s state media and the mullahs in Iran.
They ignored it completely. The reason for such a reaction is believed to be that in Iran the government was frustrated about Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s isolation.
The state-run daily Etemad in an article March 8 about Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq and his meeting with Ayatollah Sistani showed this frustration.
Referring to the social atmosphere in Iraq, Etemad wrote about the Pope’s visit to this country:
“The world Catholic leader met with Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf. The 54-minute meeting’s final statements showed that what was exchanged between the two great contemporary religious leaders was the only message of ‘peace.’”
“Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday and received a warm welcome in Baghdad. The day after entering Iraq, he passed through the narrow alleys of Najaf to reach the humble rented house of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. While both humbly put their hands on their knees, they recorded what the world media referred to as a, ‘Travel and historical events.’”
This daily also wrote about the reaction of Iranian state television: “The glass building of Jam-e-Jam, however, as the only and largest exclusive audio and video media of the Islamic Republic, does not attach much value to this news.”
“The meeting with Ayatollah Sistani was considered important as the Shiite counterpart of the Pope. But what were the reactions to this important meeting a thousand kilometers beyond Najaf in Tehran?”
“The fact that Pope Francis, 84, is heading to Najaf from the Vatican to meet with 90-year-old Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and some insecurity over the missile strikes in Iraq, shows how important it is for the two religious leaders with many followers around the world to meet.”
This daily added: “’Ensaf News’ (Another news outlet in Iran) examined the coverage of this news on the radio and television; news that was widely reported on social media, regional and even trans-regional media.”
“The 13 o’clock news, reported this important news 31 minutes after the start; the news of 2:00 PM, which is one of the most important parts of the daily news, announced the news of the meeting 39 minutes after the start. There was no mention of it in the 19 o’clock news of the news network. In the news at 8 pm on the news network, 27 minutes after the start, and at the famous 20:30 (news), 18 minutes after the start.”
“Also, no trace of this news was seen in the ‘special news talk show’ or ‘tonight’s headline’ program. In fact, for news that is at least well-known in terms of its newsworthiness and proximity, this attitude of the broadcaster is considered a kind of media boycott and downplaying.”
Etemad then stated the reason for this news boycott:
“Some people analyzed the occurrence of this meeting in line with the presence of the Islamic Republic’s advisor in Iraq, and in the context of these analyzes and, in the envelope, they pointed out and protested against the Pope, not meeting with Iranian Shiite Marja’ (title given to the highest level of Shia authority).”
“Except for the media and cyberspace, while the Iranian clergy and high-ranking Marja’ were expected to welcome the Pope and the ayatollah meeting, most of them preferred silence.”
“The pope’s visit ends today with his departure from Erbil to Baghdad after meeting with Ayatollah Sistani, who rarely attends political office and Ebrahim Raisi has recently failed to meet with him. A journey where the voice and message of inter-religious peace could have been heard here and among some extremist forces, but it did not happen!”