Sun, 11 Apr 2021

Pope Francis Leaves Iraq After 4-Day Visit

Voice of America
08 Mar 2021, 19:05 GMT+10

Pope Francis departed Iraq on Monday after a four-day visit to the country that included meetings with Christians and Muslim leaders as he preached a message of coexistence.

Iraqi President Barham Salih was among those at the airport in Baghdad for a farewell ceremony Monday.

On Sunday, the pope visited Mosul, once a stronghold of the Islamic State militant group, where he prayed for Iraq's war victims in a city square.

Francis also traveled to Qaraqosh, an ancient Christian town that had been overrun by Islamic State forces. The pope met with members of the local community at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

He also celebrated an open-air Mass on Sunday at the Franso Hariri stadium in Irbil. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, attendance was limited to 10,000 people.

On Saturday, the 84-year-old pope met with the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani at the 90-year-old Muslim leader's modest home in Najaf.

Sistani is one of the most important figures in Shiite Islam and wields considerable influence in Iraq and beyond.

The Christian presence in Iraq dates to the first centuries of the religion, but only a few hundred thousand Christians remain today.

The visit to Iraq was the pope's 33rd trip outside Italy and his first in the last 15 months, due mostly to the coronavirus pandemic.

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