From his experience in Iraq in 2018, Monsignor Kieran Harrington doesn’t look at one stop, or moment, from Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq as most significant. Rather, it’s the fact that the Holy Father was there in the first place.
March 8 marks the end of Pope Francis’ emblematic trip to Iraq — it’s been filled with many firsts for the only pontiff to visit the Land of Abraham. There were places to go, people to meet, stories to tell and, of course, lessons on human fraternity to learn. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.
In his latest in-flight news conference, Pope Francis said Monday he’s not afraid to be called a ‘heretic’ for engaging in dialogue with Muslims; that he felt “imprisoned” during COVID-19 lockdowns; he was “shocked” by the destruction he witnessed in the Iraqi city of Mosul March 7; and, on international Women’s Day, expressed regret over the exploitation of women, including the practice of genital mutilation.
Pope Francis’ historic visit to the Middle East’s most conflict-riven nation gives hope and comfort to Iraqis of all faiths, and some would even say to Arabs beyond Iraq’s borders.
Although the impact of papal trips is often hard to assess in the immediate aftermath, such cautions mean little to the leader of Iraq’s local Catholic church, who quickly proclaimed Pope Francis’s March 5-8 visit to his nation a “miracle” on Sunday.
Having witnessed or even experienced persecution for their faith, the Christians of Iraq must be careful not to harbor thoughts of revenge, Pope Francis told them.
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.
I am grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to be among you this morning. I have looked forward to this time together. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Ignace Youssif Younan for his words of welcome, and Mrs Doha Sabah Abdallah and Father Ammar Yako for their testimonies.
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.