Pope Francis is set to become the first pontiff to set a foot in Iraq on March 5, when he lands in Baghdad after a four-hour trip from Rome.
Tomorrow Pope Francis leaves for Iraq, and in most of the Christian world it’ll be seen as a trip to honor the memory of a martyred Christian population that suffered unimaginable horrors under an ISIS occupation of the Nineveh Plains region of the country between 2014 and 2017.
Pope Francis hopes to embark on the first-ever papal visit to the biblical land of Iraq in early March in a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts to the place known in Arabic as the “land of the two rivers” — the mighty Tigris and Euphrates — and once renowned as Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization.”
Less than three weeks from Pope Francis’ highly anticipated trip to Iraq, the local government on Feb.14 announced new restrictions to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, which includes the closure of all houses of worship until the last day of his March 5-8 visit.
Despite renewed security concerns after a series of recent terrorist attacks, one of Iraq’s top prelates has said preparations for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit are still underway, calling it a sign of hope that peace is possible in the war-torn nation.
The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church issued a petition on Jan.14 calling on Iraqi Catholics to pray at Sunday Masses that Pope Francis will be able to visit their country for the upcoming papal trip in March.
Visiting the Southern Italian city of Bari, Pope Francis on Feb. 23 demanded government leaders protect minorities, particularly Christians.
Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Pope Francis visited Japan Nov. 23-26 as a “pilgrim of peace. The pontiff visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki to deliver a message against nuclear weapons, calling them “immoral” and urging nations to get rid of them.
Speaking to people from 18 different religions on Nov. 22, Pope Francis said that the complex challenges of the world today – including globalization, the rapid advances of technology and the persistence of civil conflicts resulting in migration, refugees, famine and war – makes the need for cooperation between religions all the more pressing.
When Pope Francis embarks on the thirty-second trip of his pontificate Nov. 19, headed towards Thailand and Japan, he will once again be visiting nations where Catholics are a small minority.