March 5, 2021 – March 8, 2021 – Pope Francis is set to make a four-day trip to Iraq, marking the first time that a pope has ever visited the country. It will be his first foreign visit since the coronavirus pandemic struck the world.
The 84-year-old pontiff, who has been vaccinated against Covid-19, intends to go ahead with the March 5-8 visit despite the pandemic and lingering security concerns, AP said.
Francis’ main reason for the trip to Iraq is to encourage the country’s Christians, who faced decades of discrimination by Iraq’s Muslims before being persecuted by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group starting in 2014.
The slow return of displaced Christians to northern Iraq since the territory was liberated from IS in 2017 remains a contentious issue. Few Christian families have returned but the Vatican has been encouraging those who fled to come back and ensure a continued Christian presence in the area that dates from the time of Christ.