Vatican City, Dec 7, 2020 / 05:55 am America/Denver (CNA).
The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis will travel to Iraq in March 2021. He will be the first pope to ever visit the country, which is still recovering from the devastation inflicted by the Islamic State.
The four-day papal trip to Iraq March 5-8 will include stops in Baghdad, Erbil and Mosul. It will be the pope’s first international trip in over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq comes at the request of the Republic of Iraq and the local Catholic Church, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told journalists Dec.7.
During the trip, the pope will visit the Christian communities in the Nineveh plain, which were ravaged by the Islamic State from 2014 to 2016 causing Christians to flee the region. Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his closeness to these persecuted Christian communities and his desire to visit Iraq.
Security concerns have prevented the pope from fulfilling his desire to visit Iraq in recent years.