Pope Francis left Monday morning 03/08 Baghdad after a historic visit, which is the first for a great rabbi to Iraq, according to AFP journalists, which ended without any incidents in a country that often witnesses security tensions and violence. </p><div> <p>
Since Friday, Pope Francis, aged 84, has traveled between Baghdad and Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in northern Iraq, which has suffered for years from jihadists, to cross a total of 1,445 km by plane, helicopter or armored car, accompanied by a large security escort. This visit posed a security and diplomatic challenge to Baghdad, during which the Pope delivered messages of support to the Christians of Iraq, one of the oldest Christian groups in the world. In addition to security challenges, the visit came amid a health challenge as well, with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing.
On Friday, the Pope began his tour by stressing that he would come “as a penitent, asking forgiveness from heaven and brotherhood for the great destruction and cruelty of mankind,” and “a pilgrim who brings peace.” At the end of the visit activities at a mass in Erbil on Sunday, the Pope bid farewell to the Iraqis, saying, “Iraq will always be with me and in my heart.” On Sunday, the Pope visited Mosul, where he prayed for the souls of “war victims” in Hosh Al-Baya Square, in front of an ancient ruined church.
And he regretted in a speech he gave there at the “tragic decrease in the numbers of Christ’s disciples” in the Middle East. He prayed from the archaeological site, witnessing the jihadists ’violations,” for the sake of victims of war and armed conflict, “stressing that” hope is stronger than death, and peace is stronger than war. ” And forced many Christians in Iraq, due to wars, conflicts and poor living conditions, to emigrate. Only 400,000 Christians remain in Iraq today, out of a population of 40 million, after they numbered 1.5 million in 2003 before the US invasion of Iraq.
He visited Qaraqosh, the Christian town whose inhabitants were all displaced during the control of the Islamic State, and some of them have returned during the past years, and he presided over the Great Church of the Holy Mass. “The road to full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to despair,” the Pope said in a speech there. On the second day of his historic visit, the Pope met Saturday in Najaf, the supreme Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, who declared his interest in the “security and peace” of Iraqi Christians. In Ur, the site that is spiritually symbolic, he denounced in a speech “terrorism that offends religion.”