- Pope Francis “will make an Apostolic Journey to the aforementioned Country on 5-8 March 2021.”
- The official invitation was made by the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, in July 2019, and the trip was expected to happen this year.
- “I think constantly of Iraq, where I want to go next year,” Pope Francis told the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) at their June meeting in 2019.
The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has accepted an invitation from the Republic of Iraq and the local Catholic Church to make a trip to the country in March 2021. The Pope is scheduled to visit Baghdad, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh, said the director of the Vatican press room, Matteo Bruni, on Monday.
“Accepting the invitation of the Republic of Iraq and of the local Catholic Church,” Bruni’s statement read. Pope Francis “will make an Apostolic Journey to the aforementioned Country on 5-8 March 2021.”
The statement from the Press Office was, however, not very detailed. “The program of the Journey will be made known in due course, and will take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency,” read the statement in part.
The Iraqi government, through its foreign affairs ministry, has described the visit as a “historic event.” It symbolizes a message of peace for Iraq and the entire region.
The official invitation was made by the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, in July 2019, and the trip was expected to happen this year. In the letter sent to Pope Francis, President Salih said he hoped the visit would help the country to heal itself after so many years of violence.
“I think constantly of Iraq, where I want to go next year,” Pope Francis told the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) at their June meeting in 2019, “in the hope that it can face the future through the peaceful and shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society, including the religious, and not fall back into hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers.”
In 2003, before the Anglo-American invasion, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Ten years later, it is merely some 300,000, according to estimates by Iraqi Christian leaders.
Tens of thousands fled, first from the civil war that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein, after the extremists of Daesh, between 2014 and 2017. Most had to leave Baghdad and Mosul, two of the stops planned by Pope Francis.
Many fled to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, with a Christian suburb (Ankawa), little touched by the war. However, many others left the country and region.
First Visit of a Pope to Iraq
Pope Francis’ visit will be the first of a Pope to Iraq, after John Paul II’s unfulfilled planned visit for December 1999. The Polish Pope’s wish was to have made the first stage of his 2000 Jubilee pilgrimage in the Ur plain of the Chaldeans, which some believe to be the cradle of the three Abrahamic religions.
However, negotiations with Saddam were eventually interrupted. Now, it will be the Argentine Pope who would travel through the ancient city of southern Mesopotamia.