Every papal trip is, in a sense, an exercise in storytelling. A pope chooses to travel to a given destination in part because he believes it has a story the world needs to hear, and, for a few days, he lends it his spotlight, so the global media pay attention.
Surrounded by the relics of violence, war, and terrorism, Pope Francis Sunday told the Christian community of Iraq that they’re proof in flesh and blood of the victory of life over death.
Mosul, a city in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains that’s both a crossroads of tolerance and a former stronghold of ISIS, did its best Sunday to show Pope Francis its former face, with a pristine red carpet and papal-white chairs that seemed made for the occasion.
Pope Francis told Iraqi Christians that when they suffer discrimination, persecution, or war, the Eight Beatitudes are addressed to them.
Surrounded by sand and flanked by a tapestry of religious representatives in the city of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, Pope Francis called on spiritual leaders to affirm that it’s blasphemy to use the name of God to justify hatred and that extremism is a betrayal of religion.
Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq is historic for many reasons, not least of which is Saturday’s meeting with the chief figure in Shia Islam, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I embrace all of you with a father’s affection. I am grateful to the Lord who in his providence has made it possible for us to meet today. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Ignace Youssif Younan and His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Sako for their words of welcome.
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.
The 1,200 Chaldean Catholic families who live in Arizona are thousands of miles from the land of their birth. On March 5, their hearts will turn toward their native Iraq.