Pope Francis says he is pleased to visit Iraq, a place he described as the ‘cradle of civilization’.
Pope Francis has called for an end to extremism and violence in his Friday opening address on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq.
Pope Francis described his risky visit to Iraq as duty bound, embarking on the trip amidst the global pandemic and security fears. The Pope was received by Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhim at the airport in Iraq’s national dress and a warm reception.
Pope seeks to foster inter-religious dialogue in Iraq by meeting Iraq’s most revered Shia Muslim cleric – and will celebrate Mass at a stadium in Irbil in the north as reported by BBC.
In addressing fears of security and the global pandemic, about 10,000 Iraqi security forces were reported to have been deployed to protect the Pope while curfews are being declared in periodical sequence to tackle the risk the pandemic poses.
In his speech after being welcomed by Iraq’s president Barham Salih, Pope Francis says he is pleased to visit Iraq, a place he described as the ‘cradle of civilization’.
The Pope in a prayer-like manner declared his wish for peace and harmony in the country ”May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance!” He said.
Pope Francis emphasized on the age-long existence of Christians in the country saying that they contribute to the life of the nation and they constitute a rich heritage and that the dwindling community of christians should have a more prominent role as citizens with full rights, freedoms and responsibilities.
Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country with a Christian community estimated to be about 250,000.