Why is Pope Francis visiting the city of Ur?

Christian pilgrims in Ur ancient city and house of Prophet Abraham. Photo by Reuters.

In the second day of his Apostolic trip to Iraq, following meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf, Pope Francis will fly to Nassirya for an interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur for “prayer for Sons and Daughters of Abraham.”

The town of Ur has a historical unique importance as birthplace of prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic), highly respected by the Jews, Chrstians and Muslims.

The Sumerian Ur

Ur was an important Sumerian city in ancient Mesopotamia, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in 2100 BC.

Although Ur was once a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates, the coastline has shifted and the city is now well inland, on the south bank of the Euphrates, 16 kilometers from the city of Nasiriyah, center of Dhi-Qar Southern province, 100 km north of Basrah Southern province.

The site is marked by the partially restored ruins of the Zigurrat of Ur, which contained the shrine of Nanna, God of Moon according to Sumerian mythology, home of 16 royal graves built of mudbrick and strengthened with bitumen and reeds

The Zigurrat of Ur was built in the 21st century BC during the reign of Ur-Nammu and was reconstructed in the 6th century BC by Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon.

A group of tourists visit the site of Ur. Photo by Aljazeera.net

Birth of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)

The biblical Ur is mentioned four times in the Torah or Old testament as (Chaldean Ur), birthplace for Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) before his migration with his family.

Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) was born in Ur in the reign Namrud, son of Kanan.

There are however conflicting traditions and scholarly opinions identifying but date it to 2324-1850 BC. Old calculations say 50-60 years difference while according to Old Testament he was born in 1900BC.

Prayer for Sons and Daughters of Abraham

Pope Francis will fly to Nassirya for an interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur for “prayer for Sons and Daughters of Abraham,” attended by Christian, Muslim, Sabean Mandaean, Ezidi and other religious minority worshippers in Iraq.

The prayer aims at harmony among the religious groups called “The Prayer for Sons and Daughters of Abraham,” by the Vatican.

His Holly See Pope Francis, photo by CNN on Feb. 15, 2021.

In Judaism, Prophet Abraham is the founding father of the covenant pieces, the special relationship between the Hebrews and God; as Jews believe they are unique and the chosen people by God.

In Christianity, he is the spiritual progenitor of all believers, Jewish or Gentile; and in Islam Ibrahim is seen as a Muslim and the leader of the Muslims called (Nation of Ibrahim) also the link in the chain of prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Muhammad.

Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, said about Ur Prayer, “Christians, Muslims, Jews and all others faithfully share the genuine belief of Abraham in the only God and they have to respect the beauty of diversity. It is a source of power not weakness or an excuse for disagreement and fight.”

The Chaldean Patriarchate is the largest representative of the Catholics in Iraq and described the visit as “historical in exceptional circumstances.”

The patriarchate hoped positive feedback from all Iraqis and all nations in the region for toward a positive change and real fraternity and promotion of joint harmonious life that guarantees dignity for all.

The trip is the first papal visit to Iraq amid protests for reform and surge in Covid-19 infections.

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