Pope Francis is heading to Iraq this week, undeterred by Covid-19 and security fears, in what will be its first papal visit
For his first international trip since before the pandemic, the pope has chosen a country struggling with terrorist attacks and a spike in Covid-19 cases.
March 2, 2021 6:30 am ETPope Francis this week begins a visit to Iraq, choosing for his first international trip since before the pandemic a country struggling with terrorist attacks and a spike in Covid-19 cases.The four-day tour starts Friday and will take in six cities, a Mass in a soccer stadium, and meetings with religious and political leaders. The pope says he wants to promote dialogue with Islam and show support for
Iraq’s Christians.But the trip is causing security headaches and public-health concerns for Iraqi authorities, as well as consternation among Catholic officials. Many in the Vatican and Iraq’s clergy thought the trip’s timing inadvisable and hoped the pope would delay it, according to people familiar with the matter.
The pope, who has struggled to maintainhis visibility and impact during a year of lockdowns, is determined to return to the world stage. He lamented being “a pope in a cage” when Rome and Italy first locked down last March.For his first trip of the Covid era, Pope Francis has picked “one of the most threat-rich countries in the world right now, one of the most difficult to operate in from a security perspective,” said Patrick Osgood of Control Risks, a global risk consulting firm with an extensive presence in Iraq. Mr. Osgood said the papal visit would be “the single most high-profile test of Iraq’s security provision, certainly, since the defeat of Islamic State” in 2017. headtopics.com
Workers printed fliers of Pope Francis at a shop in Erbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on Monday.Photo:Pope Francis has long wanted to visit Iraq, home to some of the earliest Christian communities as well as, by tradition, Abraham, the forefather of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. St. John Paul II wanted to visit the country, but negotiations with Iraq’s then-dictator, Saddam Hussein, broke down.
Those expressing concern about the trip’s timing include retired Pope Benedict VXI. “I think it is a very important trip…Unfortunately it occurs in a very difficult moment that also makes it a dangerous trip for reasons of security and because of Covid. And then there is the unstable situation in Iraq. I will accompany Francis with my prayers,” the 93-year-old pope emeritus told Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera in an interview published Monday.
Pope Francis has said he wants to show support for Iraq’s beleaguered Christian minority, while also pursuing his signature cause of better relations with the Muslim world. His will be the first visit to Iraq by any pope.“I am the pastor of people who are suffering,” the 84-year-old pope told the U.S. Catholic News Service in February. He said his visit would have value even if anticontagion measures mean that most Iraqis can only see him on television, since “they will see that the pope is there in their country.”
The Iraq trip is the latest example of the dramatic gestures and encounters with crowds that have defined Pope Francis’ pontificate.Minutes into his first papal trip,to Brazil in 2013 Read more: The Wall Street Journal »
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“This Week in Weather” is now “Earth from Orbit.” We’ve updated the name of our weekly video series to better reflect NOAA satellites’ vast capabilities that extend beyond weather. On the morning of April 9, 2021, La Soufrière volcano on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent began erupting, spewing ash at least 25,000 feet in the air. The volcano continued to erupt over the
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