Return to Rome – Pope Francis ends trip to Iraq | Free press

Christians in Northern Iraq have lived through brutal years of terror and persecution. They longed for the Pope to visit them. Now Francis has kept the promise.

Baghdad (AP) – After nearly four days, Pope Francis has ended his historic trip to Iraq. Monday morning (local time), the head of the Catholic Church boarded a plane back to Rome. He was expected there early in the afternoon.

Francis is the first Pope to travel to Iraq – a visit that especially the Christians in the north of the country have long wanted.

On Sunday, the 84-year-old flew to them by plane and helicopter. Despite the corona pandemic, crowds of believers had gathered on the streets of Mosul and Qaraqosh to cheer on Francis. In Mosul, Francis prayed in the church square, which with its ruined places of worship became a symbol of the suffering of Christians during the war against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS).

Jorge Bergoglio, as Francis’s real name is called, visibly loved the amount of attention and joy of the people. In the football stadium of the Kurdish capital Erbil he celebrated the last mass of his trip on Sunday afternoon in front of thousands of worshipers, including a ride to the arena in the “Papa-Mobil”.

The political and religious part of the trip took place in the days before. Francis visited the home of the highest Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for an interview. Religious representatives gathered in the plain of Ur, from which, according to biblical traditions, sprang Abraham, who is considered the progenitor by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

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