Pope Francis was the first of the Roman pontiffs to visit Iraq – a country where the military conflict has been going on for decades.
Pope Francis on Friday was the first pontiff to visit Iraq, calling on the country’s residents to end the war, violence, and religious strife that engulfed Iraq decades ago. This was reported by the agency “Reuters.”
“Let there be an end to armed clashes…, acts of violence and extremism,” the pope said, addressing Iraqi President Barham Salih, Iraqi politicians, and diplomats at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad.
Francis arrived from the airport in Baghdad under heavy security and in a bulletproof BMW, telling reporters on route from the Vatican to Iraq that he felt obliged to make a “symbolic” journey to a country that has “suffered for many decades.” Speaking to reporters, the pope said he was “happy to be able to travel again” after a 16-month hiatus related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 84-year-old pontiff, according to the Reuters news agency, will visit four Iraqi cities. He will travel around the country by plane, helicopter, and car. The Pope will hold a mass at a Catholic church in Baghdad, meet with the head of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims in Najaf, in southern Iraq, and then travel north to Mosul.
The pontiff will also visit Ur, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, who Christians, Muslims, and Jews revere, and meet with 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is considered the highest-ranking Shiite Muslim cleric in Iraq.