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Pope Francis continues his trip through Iraq

  2021-03-07  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Pope Francis speaks at the ruins if the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Mosul, Nineveh, Iraq,Mar. 7,2021 Photo by Vatican News
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI — Pope Francis continues his three-day trip through Iraq by arriving in the Kurdistan Region's capital city of Erbil early on Sunday morning (March 7).

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani welcomed Francis at Erbil International Airport.

The pontiff met with President Barzani at the Presidential VIP Lounge of the airport.

“I’m honored to receive Pope Francis in Erbil. As apostolic visit begins in Kurdistan, we reiterate our lasting commitment to peace, religious freedom & fraternity,” Barzani tweeted.

“We also remember Peshmarga heroes and all those who made ultimate sacrifice to defend peace & liberty for all Iraqis.”

The visit was first of its kind to both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. 

Later, Francis visited war-stricken Mosul by a helicopter and delivered his sermon and prayers surrounded by rubbed left over by recapture battles.

Francis arrived at the Hosh al-Bieaa centre in Mosul where he prayed, amidst the ruins and along with the people of Iraq, for all the victims of war in the country and throughout the Middle East, according to Vatican News.

"Whatever our religious tradition, live in harmony and peace, conscious that in the eyes of God, we are all brothers and sister," he said. 

Later, he arrived in the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqoush and was welcome by the joyous locals.

He returned to Erbil in the afternoon and held a mass at Franso Hariri Stadium in the presence of about ten thousand spectators.

The KRG has announces several strict measures to contain the upsurge in the coronavirus-related cases by restricting public gatherings.  

Iraq’s security has improved since the fall of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) caliphate in December 2017, but the ISIS militants still pose a threat to the country through its sleeper cells.

The country also struggles amid arduous global and regional score-settling conflicts, especially Iran-US rivalry that is played out on Iraq’s lands.

The papal visit is also seen as a support to the dwindling Christians whose population has decreased to from six percent of a 25 million Iraqi population prior to 2003 to just about 300,000 due to decades of war and conflicts that has pushed them to flee Iraq to abroad or to safer havens in the Kurdistan Region.

(Zhyan English)

*This story was updated at 05:39 pm EBL