.- As part of an effort to bolster Iraq’s diplomatic relations in Europe, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is making stops in Germany and Italy this week. On Friday he will pay a visit to Pope Benedict XVI to brief him on efforts to protect the Christian community in Iraq and to promote values of equality, justice and reconciliation.
Al-Maliki began his stop-over in Germany on Monday by meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and German business leaders. At a press conference, the Iraqi leader addressed the plight of Iraqi Christians saying, "there is no discrimination between Christians and Muslims" and said that "we will do our best so that Christians also return to Iraq."
On Thursday, Al-Maliki will travel to Italy to meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Friday will see the Iraqi PM head south of Rome to speak with Pope Benedict XVI. According to Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh, Al-Maliki will update the Pope on “the steps taken by the Iraqi government to spread the values of tolerance, equality, justice, and national reconciliation among all Iraqis and its efforts to build a democratic Iraq.”
A meeting with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will also take place following the audience with the Pope.
Iraq is home to the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is part of the Eastern Rite. The Chaldean Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world.