Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil
Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.
The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.
- The trip comes after two decades of attempts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, a prophet considered the patriarch of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Between the lines: Recent rocket attacks and the presence of rogue Shiite militias have heightened concerns for security.
- Iraq's number of daily coronavirus cases has also been on the rise since late January, according to Johns Hopkins University.
- The pope is expected to travel in an armored car with a security detail, per AP.
- March 5: Welcome ceremony with civil authorities and visit with the president at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad. Visits Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation.
- March 6: Visit with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani in Najaf. Inter-religious meeting in Nassirya and Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Baghdad.
- March 7: Meeting with religious and civil authorities from Iraqi Kurdistan in Erbil. Prayer for victims of war and visit with the Qaraqosh community in Mosul.
- March 8: Farewell ceremony in Baghdad.