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Pope Francis begins historic four-day tour of Iraq

DW, 05 Mar 2021
Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, began a historic four-day visit to Iraq on Friday morning, marking the first papal visit to the country. The pope's schedule will see the 84-year-old cleric crisscross the country.

He landed in Baghdad on Friday and was greeted by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, who said Iraqis were eager to welcome Francis' "message of peace and tolerance" and called the visit a meeting between the "minaret and the bells."

The pope's visit includes church services in the capital, Baghdad, and in a stadium in the northern city of Irbil, a meeting with senior Muslim clerics in the southern city of Najaf, and a helicopter ride to the northern city of Mosul. The idea of interfaith fraternity — "we are all brothers" — is the official slogan for the March 5-8 trip.

Iraq's church leaders often say they are threatened with "extinction" in the Muslim-majority country and have predicted local Christian communities will go the same way as Iraq's once-thriving Jewish population. Today, individual accounts suggest that fewer than 10 Jews remain in Baghdad.

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