Pope Francis has left for an apostolic visit to Iraq.
The Pope is expected to leave the Vatican tomorrow. In Baghdad, he will meet Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi and shortly afterwards will head to the President’s Palace for the official ceremony. Tomorrow he will visit the Church of Our Lady of Salvation. One of the purposes of this visit is for the Pope to send a message of encouragement to Iraqis recovering from the Islamic State war.
He is also expected to visit Mosul where he will spend time praying with the Christian community that suffered severe persecution and oppression under the Islamic State in 2014.
Yesterday, during Wednesday’s audience, Pope Francis said he hoped this Apostolic journey would bear fruit and serve as a step toward fraternity in Iraq. He asked Christians to pray for him and said citizens in Iraq were looking forward to this trip as they had longed for a visit from Pope John Paul II but he was not permitted to go. Pope John Paul II had expressed a desire to go to Iraq months before the Great Jubilee in 2000. However, this trip never materialised.
The visit is expected to end on Monday. This is the first time a Pope will visit Iraq.