Pope says Iraq Covid-19 risk preoccupied him for long time

Aboard the papal plane, Mar 8 (efe-epa).- Pope Francis on Monday said that his trip to Iraq in the middle of a pandemic had preoccupied him for a long time but decided nonetheless to travel and put the fate of Iraqis who flocked to see him in God’s hands.

The 84-year-old pontiff ended the first ever papal visit to Iraq after four days, during which he delivered a message of hope, peace and forgiveness.

“Trips cook slowly over time in my conscience. And this (the pandemic threat) is one of the things that most made me think ‘perhaps, perhaps’,” Francis told journalists during the flight home.

“I thought about it a lot, I prayed a lot over this. And in the end I took the decision freely. It came from within and I said ‘the one (God) who allows me to decide this way will look after the people’,” he added.

Francis’ comments came in response to a question whether he was worried that his visit could lead to rising Covid-19 infections in the country.

He explained the decision to make the trip was made at the invitation of ambassadors and the country’s president but the thing that most moved him was the book of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, a member of Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority who survived sexual slavery at the hands of the Islamic State terror organization.

The ruins of the Syriac Catholic church in Mosul in northern Iraq left him speechless, he continued.

In 2013, there were about 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but currently they range between 250,000 and 400,000 after years of war, instability, and persecution.

Francis arrived in Baghdad on Friday for a long-awaited trip, during which he visited churches, met with the country’s top Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, and held an interfaith meeting in the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq.

Ur is mentioned in the Bible as the home of the prophet Abraham, the father of the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.EFE-EPA

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