On the third day of his visit to Iraq, Pope Francis visited the northern part of the country, which was once held by the Islamic State (IS) militants. In 2014, when the group seized the region, Iraq’s Christian minority targeted terrorists, carrying out human rights abuses.
Pope has arrived in the city of Mosul where he is praying among the ruins of churches that were destroyed during the fighting. With up to 10,000 attendees expected, he will celebrate Mass in Ibril. Meanwhile, the health officials have expressed fears that the event could turn into a coronavirus super-spreader event.
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Over the past month, the country has seen a surge in new confirmed infections. But Pope and his team have all been vaccinated as Iraq has only received its first batch of shots. Pope’s visit that began on Friday was the first-ever papal official visit to Iraq and the first international execution since the pandemic first began last year.
Pope Francis was welcomed by Nechirvan Barzani, the head of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Later, he visited Mosul’s church square, where he prayed for the victims of the war against the Islamic State, which left tens of thousands of civilians dead. He is also due to visit Iraq’s largest church in the city of Qaraqosh. Meanwhile, people in the city have been gathering in joyful anticipation of his historic excursions to the beleaguered nation.
Nearly 10,000 security troops have been deployed to protect the Pope during his visit. Besides, round-the-clock curfews have also been imposed to curb the spread of the outbreak. Since arrival in the country, the Pope has called for an end to the violence and extremism. He also maintained that Iraq’s Christians should have a more prominent role, with full freedom and rights.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church then visited Ur, believed the birthplace of Prophet Abraham -revered in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. His visit comes as one of the world’s oldest communities saw its number plummet significantly over the last few decades, from 1.4 million to 250,000. On the other hand, thousands have fled the region to escape violence and conflict that began since the US-led invasion to oust the Saddam-regime. For three years, when the IS-controlled northern Iraq, tens of thousands of civilians were also displaced.
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