In a historical visit to Iraq Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State called for an end to violence and extremism.
“May the clash of arms be silenced… may there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance!” he said while visiting Iraq according to BBC.
This is his first international trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, both the pandemic and security issues made it his riskiest visit ever but he insisted he was duty-bound and had to make this trip.
He was greeted by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Kadhimi at the airport with Iraqis wearing the national dress and singing songs and cheering him.
Hundreds of people gathered at the airport to see Pope’s convoy which was heavily protected by the Iraqi security officials.
Pope Francis is hoping to foster inter-religious dialogue, meet Iraq’s Muslim clerics and celebrate mass at a stadium in the Irbil north of Iraq.
10,000 Iraqi security personnel are deployed to protect the Pope and curfews are being imposed to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.
During his visit he demanded that Iraqi Christians should have more prominent roles, full rights, freedom, responsibilities, and have a greater role in the public life, BBC reported.
The catholic leader went to hold mass in Syriac Catholic church, which was attacked in 2010 in which 52 Christians and a policeman were killed.
Iraq had one of the world’s oldest Christian communities and in the last decade its population decreased from 1.4 million to 250,000, many of whom were either killed, or fled abroad since the US-led invasion to remove Saddam, and thousands of Iraqi Christians were displaced when Islamic State overrun northern Iraq in 2014, seizing their properties, destroying their historical heritage and churches, giving them choices to pay taxes, force convert, face death or leave the country.