One was dressed in white robes, the other in black.
One man was in a country slowly recovering from years of war, as the head of the Catholic church. The other man is the most senior and respected cleric there and is a senior figure in Shia Islam.
The meeting between Pope Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, was part of a stunningly historic visit to Iraq.
Francis was going where no pope had gone before to a country where hundreds of thousands of people have died in conflict.
The Vatican said the two men had "underlined the importance of collaboration". Sistani, 90, said in a statement that spiritual leaders should make an effort to curb the tragedies of oppression, persecution and violence.
Security was on a huge scale overall for the Pope's visit as there are still outbreaks of militia violence - nearly two decades after the 2003 United States-led invasion, civil war, al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Isis caliphate.
It is rare for a world leader to visit, let alone travel well beyond Baghdad, including to Erbil and the battered city of Mosul, once under Isis control. Francis could have made his points from a safe, far away, distance. Bravely putting himself at personal risk has added weight to his call for unity.
The meeting with Sistani took place in the cleric's home and the Pope, 84, who arrived in a bullet-proof Mercedes-Benz, still had to walk down a narrow alleyway to get there, limping as he suffers from sciatica.
Iraq has a diversity of faiths and the four-day papal visit was meant to encourage religious tolerance and co-existence in a country where there has been extensive conflict between sectarian groups.
Iraq also needs practical help. It suffers from endemic, hard-to-improve problems such as a battling economy, poor infrastructure, overwhelmed services, insufficient investment and corruption.
There's also the problems of the pandemic and there were fears the Pope's events could cause superspreader infections.
Shia Muslims are the majority but there are also Sunni Muslims, Kurds and a small population of Christians. In 18 years the Christian community has fallen from 1.5 million to 400,000.
Francis celebrated with worshippers at a mass in Baghdad's cathedral. A church in the city was the site of a massacre in 2010 when Islamic militants killed 58 people. The Pope said that "inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings".
At a mixed-faith gathering at ancient Ur, the Pope said: "We need one another". He said near the 6000-year-old ziggurat in the desert plains that all faiths "look up at the same sky".
The site is near the traditional birthplace of Abraham, a figure important to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Symbolism and the power of personal example can only go so far, but they at least open up possibilities, may prompt changes in behaviour, and are a necessary counter to a near-constant diet of doom and destruction and people who peddle fear and misinformation.
Video of enthusiastic crowds in northern Iraq suggested people were at least enjoying something positive and the rare notice of the outside world.
Francis said: "Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country. All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered."
It was a welcome show of support for a battered but resilient country and people who have suffered more than most.