Pope Francis Plans Historic Iraq Trip In March

Pope Francis delivers a homily during Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica mass on April 5, 2020 in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP.


Pope Francis will make a historic visit to Iraq in March, the Vatican said Monday, the first ever by a pontiff and which will include a trip to Mosul.

The 83-year-old has long spoken of his desire to visit the Middle Eastern country, although the Vatican said the programme would “take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency”.

Francis will be the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit Iraq, where the number of Christians has dropped dramatically over the past two decades.

“He will visit Baghdad, the plain of Ur… the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement, during a trip planned from March 5 to 8, 2021.

There were more than one million Christians in Iraq but just a few hundred thousand are left following sectarian warfare after the 2003 US-led invasion and the Islamic State group’s sweep through a third of the country in 2014.

The pope’s visit to Mosul will be particularly significant, given that it was a former stronghold of the Islamic State group.

Francis was forced to cancel all foreign trips in June after it became clear that coronavirus, which hit Italy in early March, would make travel for the elderly pontiff too dangerous.

He said last year that Iraq was on his list for 2020 trips.

At the time he said he hoped Iraq could “face the future through the peaceful and shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society, including the religious, and not fall back into hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers.”.

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“The pope’s visit will come as the realisation of a dream of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II,” the Vatican’s news portal said.

“The Polish pope had planned to travel to Iraq at the end of 1999, but was prevented by Saddam Hussein,” it added.

The Iraqi government welcomed news of Francis’ visit, with the foreign ministry saying: “It symbolises a message of peace to Iraq and the whole region.”

President Barham Saleh officially invited the pope to visit Iraq in July 2019, hoping it would help the country “heal” after years of strife.


President Buhari Felicitates With Pope Francis At 80

President Buhari Felicitates With Pope Francis At 80President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a congratulatory message to Pope Francis as he turns 80 on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

In a statement by presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, the President joined the Roman Catholic Church in particular, and Christendom in general, in celebrating the milestone in the life of the Pontiff.

He described him as a man who has shown uncommon humility, generosity and love for humanity.

President Buhari believes Pope Francis has lived, preached and demonstrated the tenets of the Christian faith like Saint Francis of Assisi, who influenced the world around him by caring for the weak, the poor and helpless.

The President gave the assurance that the teachings of His Holiness on peace, love and tolerance in a world embroiled in conflicts will not be lost on leaders, and will continue to resonate through many generations.

President Buhari prayed that the almighty God would grant Pope Francis longer life and good health as he serves God and humanity.

Jonathan Congratulates New Pope

President Goodluck Jonathan has congratulated the newly elected pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

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In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, President Jonathan welcomed Cardinal Bergoglio’s election as successor to Pope Benedict XVI as “a divinely inspired choice by the College of Cardinals and an unequivocal testimony of God’s abiding presence in His Church and the world.”

The statement reads, “The President joins Catholics in Nigeria and other countries of the world in praying for God’s blessings and Divine guidance for Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis as he assumes the papacy, trusting that he will put his acclaimed qualities and devoutness to the best possible use in resolutely guiding the Church through the many challenges it currently faces.

“President Jonathan and the Federal Government look forward to further enhancing the already cordial and excellent relationship between Nigeria and the Vatican under the leadership of Pope Francis, the beloved champion of the underprivileged and renowned crusader for global equity and social justice.

“The President also looks forward to collaborating with Pope Francis and the Holy See in working towards the realization of a much more secure, peaceful and just world order.

“As he prepares for his formal installation and ascension to the Papacy on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, the President prays that God Almighty will grant Pope Francis continued good health and strength, and the even greater knowledge, wisdom, understanding and divine insights he requires to successfully maintain the positive traditions of the Catholic Church and discharge the sacred Petrine Mission entrusted to him.”

Cardinal Bergogli is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be Pontiff. He is also the first Pope to be appointed out of Europe for 1,000 years.

He replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month at the age of 85, saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.