Pope Francis came to Baghdad this Friday for the first visit of a top leader of the Catholic Church in Iraq to be close to the country’s Christian community, which is brutally persecuted by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
As planned, the Alitalia flight landed at Baghdad Airport around 2 p.m. local time (11 a.m. in Lisbon) to begin a three-day visit.
The Pope was greeted at the foot of the aircraft steps by Prime Minister Mustafa al Kazemi and two children in traditional clothing who offered him flowers.
In a discreet welcoming ceremony, the delegations from the two countries were introduced and the hymns played.
During the three-day visit, the Pope will go south, to the Ur of the Chaldeans and north, to the Nineveh plain and to Mosul and Qaraqosh, where the Christians were concentrated before the cities were destroyed by IS and the population halved next to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, which fled the jihadists.
During all of the Pope’s trips on this trip, a closed vehicle will be used for safety reasons and to avoid the passing crowds, a measure that was taken in particular due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Francisco is in Iraq to honor the nearly 300,000 Christians who remain in the country – around 1.5 million in 2003 – after they were wiped out by Islamic State. Lusa