[Follow our live updates on the pope’s visit to Iraq.]
Pope Francis begins a three-day whirlwind tour of Iraq on Friday, despite worries that he could draw large crowds at a moment when the coronavirus appears to be resurgent in the country.
Continuing security concerns in a nation ravaged by years of war and conflict were also not enough to deter Pope Francis from fulfilling a promise to visit one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
Why is Francis visiting Iraq?
Such a visit has been the dream of several popes. John Paul II intended to go in 2000, but the trip was canceled as tensions in the region mounted. Benedict XVI was also invited but couldn’t go because of the war.
Iraq’s president, Barham Salih, invited Francis to visit in July 2019, hoping it would help the country heal after years of strife.
including an assault on Wednesday. That is on top of a persistent Islamic State presence two years after the terrorist group lost the last of the territory it controlled there.
The pope will be formally welcomed by Iraq’s head of state, President Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician who previously met Francis in Rome and has made minority rights a priority.