Pope’s Historic Trip Marks Peaceful Step Towards Security and Unity in Iraq

Tags: Currents Crux, Faith, Iraq, Iraqi Christians, Pope, Pope Francis, Vatican, World News

By Emily Drooby

Pope Francis is grateful for his historic trip to Iraq, and says being with the people was like coming back to life after months in prison.

“A priest becomes a priest to serve, to serve God’s people,” he told reporters aboard

On the way home, he addressed outside concerns raised about the trip spreading COVID.

“I prayed a lot about this trip, and in the end, I made the decision freely, though it did come from within,” he said.

He’s the first pope to set foot in the country — a crucial step towards human fraternity and the aim of interreligious dialogue. It’s something so important to Pope Francis, he says he’s willing to take risks for it.

On Saturday March 6, the pontiff traveled to Najaf to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most senior Shiite religious cleric. The private meeting was a milestone in relations between the Catholic Church and Shiite Islam.

Pope Francis called the meeting “very respectful,” and added that it’s a second step on the path towards fraternity.

On the Papal plane, he spoke about a 2019 joint document on human fraternity that he signed with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, during an interreligious meeting in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, al-Sistani says he would like to see Christians living like Iraqis, in peace and security.

Pope Francis continued his quest for peace at an interreligious meeting in Ur, said to be the birthplace of Abraham. The meeting brought hope to those who were there.

The Holy Father ended the full day back in Baghdad, where he celebrated his first Mass with the area’s Christian community.

On Sunday, he was welcomed to Erbil by singing crowds.

He also traveled to Mosul, a city occupied and destroyed by ISIS for three years. Amid the ruins of so many churches, he prayed for their victims.

“Fraternity is stronger than fratricide. Hope is more powerful than death. Peace is more powerful than war,” he said.

Only an estimated 70 Christian families are left in Mosul today.

The Pope also traveled to Qaraqosh, meeting with the Christian community at a church once used as a firing range by fundamentalists.

After seeing the martyred cities, the Pope went back to Erbil to celebrate Holy Mass.

He was greeted by 10,000 participants, including the father of a three-year-old Syrian child, Alan Kurdi. The image of his lifeless body washed up on the coast of Turkey shocked the world back in 2015. He serves as a heart wrenching reminder of the thousands of refugees who have died looking for safety and a better life in Europe.

While celebrating Mass, Pope Francis once more shared his hope for interreligious dialogue.

Speaking to the large crowd, the Holy Father said, “I ask all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to work together in unity for a future of peace and prosperity that leaves no one behind and discriminates against no one.”

While on the papal plane Pope Francis confirmed a September trip to Hungary for a Mass, but he won’t tour the country. He also o says he’s considering a journey to Lebanon, too.