Pope arrives in Iraq for historic trip amid Covid, security risks

Baghdad, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- Pope Francis arrived in Baghdad on Friday for the first ever papal visit to Iraq, and his first trip abroad since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

He will meet members of the country’s Christian minority community which was persecuted by the Islamic State that occupied parts of Iraq for three years until the terror group was defeated in late 2017.

Sectarian violence in the war-torn country has seen Iraq’s Christian population fall from 1.5 million in 2003 to just 300,000.

The pope’s visit is marked by heightened security measures amid fears of potential sectarian attacks and restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 10,000 security personnel will be deployed to protect the pontiff, while he will use a closed vehicle for the entirety of his three-day trip.

A curfew has also been imposed to limit crowds as an anti-coronavirus measure.

Francis was greeted at the foot of the plane at Baghdad airport by the Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Before landing, the pope told reporters traveling with him that his historic visit is “an emblematic trip” that he sees as “a duty towards a land that has been martyred for so many years.” EFE-EPA


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