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Pope francis's visit to iraq

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Pope Francis's visit to Iraq took place between 5 March and 8 March 2021. The visit was accorded on following an invitation of the Government of Iraq and the local Catholic Church. The visit was remembered as an attempt to mend bridges between the different faiths in Iraq. With this visit, Pope Francis became the first Pope to visit Iraq.

During his visit, the pope visited the cities of Ur, Baghdad, Najaf, Qaraqosh, Erbil and Mosul.[1]

Pope John Paul II wanted to visit Ur, the birthplace of Abraham according to the biblical tradition during a journey through the Middle East including Israel, Jordan and Palestine but the journey was cancelled due to differences between the Government of Saddam Hussein and the representatives of the Holy See.[2]

The visit was accorded on following an invitation of the Government of Iraq and the local Catholic Church.[3]

The preparations for the visit were nearing completion early in 2020, when he met the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, at an audience in the Vatican on 25 January of that year.[4] On the 7 December 2020, the Holy See Press Director Matteo Bruni released a statement confirming that Pope Francis would make an apostolic visit after accepting the invitation of the Republic of Iraq and the local Catholic Church to visit the Middle Eastern country of Iraq between 5–8 March 2021. It was his first apostolic visit since November 2019 as journeys were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020.[2] Pope Francis mentioned he would arrive as a penitent pilgrim and pray for forgiveness after a long period of interreligious conflicts during the civil war in Iraq.[5] Despite the fact that the Ambassador of the Vatican, Archbishop Misko Leskovar contracted COVID-19 and remained in self-isolation, the Pope wanted to travel to Iraq.[5] During the visit, several security measures were taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic as well as threats of terrorist attacks.[5][6] The visit to Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf was prepared with great care to details such as what beverages will be taken or on for how many meters Pope Francis will walk to Al Sistani home.[7] Before arrival, Francis, 20 members of his entourage, and more than 70 journalists who accompanied them were vaccinated against COVID-19.[8]

He landed in Baghdad on the 5 March and addressed the Iraqi population through a televised speech acknowledging the importance of Iraq as a cradle of civilizations.[5][9] Upon his arrival at the Baghdad International Airport, the pope was given a welcome gift of a replica from a work of Mohammed Ghani Hikmat depicting the Passion of Jesus before his crucifixion, by the Iraqi President Barham Salih.[10] He also met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi and members of the christian cleric.[1]

On the 6 March 2021 he visited Najaf, where he met the Shia cleric and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani.[11] The meeting took place in the home of Al Sistani nearby the Imam Ali Shrine.[12] They released a joint statement against religious extremism. On the same day he visited Ur, which according to the Bible is the birthplace of Abraham, whom Jews, Muslims and Christians consider is their religious father.[11] In the evening he returned to Baghdad where he held a mass in the Church of St.Joseph.[13] It was the first time, that Pope Francis delivered a liturgy according to the eastern rite.[13]

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