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Pope Francis visits Iraq on historic trip

CA, 07 Mar 2021
Pope Francis arrived in Baghdad as he began his historic papal visit to Iraq on Friday.

The pope delivered a homily at a Saturday evening service in Baghdad's Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph, saying patience to begin anew is the first quality of love which faced with evil, does not give up or surrender.

Greeted by a church choir and escorted by clergymen to the altar, Francis was the first head of the Roman Catholic church to preside over a mass in Iraq.

Coronavirus restrictions limited the number of people allowed in the church to about 100, but they included the country's president, foreign minister and the speaker of the house of parliament, all of whom are Muslim.

Pope Francis met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, in Najaf on Saturday, too. The Vatican said the visit “stressed the importance of friendship, mutual respect and dialogue between religious communities.”

Iraq's Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has been particularly devastated, falling to about 300,000 from about 1.5 million before the U.S. invasion and the brutal Islamist militant violence that followed.

His four-day trip is the first time a pope has visited Iraq.

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