Pope Francis has arrived in Iraq for a whirlwind four-city tour across three days.
It’s the pontiff’s first trip since November 2019 and the coronavirus restrictions of travel that kept him in Italy.
He is the first pope ever to travel to Iraq.
The pontiff and leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is expected to travel as many as 900 miles throughout his trip.
The pope said he felt duty-bound to embark on the “emblematic” visit since the country had suffered so much for so long, according to Reuters.
“I am happy to be making trips again,” he told reporters aboard his plane, as the same outlet noted.
Pope Francis is 84.
The pope will say Mass at a church in Baghdad. He will also meet the country’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric in the city of Najaf and will travel as well to Mosul, “where the army had to empty the streets for security reasons last year for a visit by Iraq’s prime minister.”
Mosul is a former stronghold of the Islamic State (ISIS)—“and churches and other buildings there still bear the scars of conflict,” Reuters also pointed out.
Pope Francis is also scheduled to travel to Ur, the birthplace of Abraham.
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—By CNJ Staff