"Najaf is the capital of religions, so he is welcomed as a peace-lover," he wrote.
During his visit to Iraq, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with Ali al-Sistani, leader of Shia Muslims in Iraq, in Najaf on March 6.
The pope will then travel to the plain of Ur in southern Iraq, which the Bible records as the birthplace of Abraham. In Ur, the pope will give a speech at an interreligious gathering.
A priest in Iraq has noted that the national coronavirus restrictions in Iraq should not apply to the northern autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Pope Francis is scheduled to go on the last full day of his visit.
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The pope will be welcomed at the Erbil Airport March 7 by the religious and civil authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan before traveling to Mosul to pray for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa square.
Pope Francis will visit Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain and will offer Mass at a stadium in Erbil. These Christian communities suffered greatly under occupation by the Islamic State from 2014 to 2016, causing many Christians to flee the region. The pope has repeatedly expressed his closeness to these persecuted Christians.
The papal visit to Iraq will be Pope Francis' first international trip in over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There were 2,530 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq on Feb. 13, according to the World Health Organization, which has recorded a total of 641,628 cases in Iraq in the last year with 13,164 deaths in Iraq attributed to COVID-19.
The Iraqi health ministry confirmed the first case of the new strain of the coronavirus at a press conference on Feb. 15, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Pope Francis received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus vaccine earlier this year. All Vatican journalists and security personnel traveling with Pope Francis on his trip to Iraq are also required to get the vaccination against COVID-19.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.