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Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

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.

Itinerary:

  • 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.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 3, 2021 - World

U.S. contractor dies of "cardiac episode" after rockets hit Iraq airbase

One U.S. contractor died of a "cardiac episode" after least 10 rockets hit the Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq hosting U.S.-led coalition troops, a Pentagon spokesperson said Wednesday.

The big picture: It's the first rocket attack since the U.S. launched an airstrike against facilities in Syria associated with an Iran-backed militia group last week, citing recent assaults and "ongoing threats to American and coalition personnel in Iraq.

FAA clears more planes after 5G fears

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it had approved nearly 80% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports with new 5G services after fears of signal interference limited 5G rollout.

Why it matters: The FAA approvals will help provide more certainty after the agency raised fears that 5G signals could reduce the accuracy of certain equipment, known as radio altimeters, that helps planes land and take off in inclement weather.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton stock tanks on report of production halt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Peloton stock fell by as much as 25% on Thursday, following a CNBC report that the connected fitness company will temporarily halt production on its bikes and treadmills.

Why it matters: Peloton is viewed by many as a proxy for consumer behavior in the pandemic era, as its popularity surged when gyms closed and people wanted to exercise at home.