Pope Francis is now in Iraq for the first ever papal visit to the country. This is also the 84-year-old’s first international trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
While there, the Pope will try to reassure Iraq’s dwindling Christian community and foster inter-religious dialogue by meeting Iraq’s most revered Shia Muslim cleric.
He will also celebrate mass at a stadium in Irbil in the north.
The Pope said he felt “duty-bound” to visit the country despite the security and coronavirus concerns.
Earlier, he had said Iraqi Christians could not be “let down for a second time”. Pope John Paul II cancelled plans for a trip in 1999 when talks with then-president Saddam Hussein’s government broke down.
Addressing the Iraqi people in a video message on the eve of his trip, Pope Francis said he was “coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism.”