Pope Francis visiting Iraq is a gift from God, says Patriarch

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The Vatican has confirmed the itinerary for Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq – the first by a Pope to the country. It’s also the first overseas visit in over a year as a result of the global Covid pandemic.

Pope Francis arrives at Baghdad International Airport on Friday 5 March and starts a three-day visit that sees the Holy Father travel around the country from the capital to key cities like Erbil and Mosul. There will also be what is sure to be a poignant meeting with the community of Qaraqosh – one of the towns in northern Iraq where churches, shops, houses and farms were destroyed by ISIS during its occupation. Tens of thousands fled and many were persecuted and killed.

Greeting Pope Francis in Baghdad is His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

You can listen to the full 20-minute podcast interview with Patriarch Sako in our podcast section.

Peace and Reconciliation

“You know, I think this visit is something special – it’s a gift from God. This charismatic man coming to Iraq, maybe he’s pushed by something divine. Just to come and to speak with these people just like at the time of the prophets of the Old Testament. Isaiah always said, and Ezekiel and others, ‘Go and tell them!’ And maybe God is sending Pope Francis to come and to tell us something strong.

“Peace and reconciliation in Iraq [is difficult] because here, you know, the system is tribal and taking revenge is seen as something holy, sacred. It doesn’t work. We are living in a modern society. We have to know how to forgive and reconcile with each other for the benefit of our community – our people.

“When the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, visited [the Pope] in the Vatican, I don’t know what kind of gift he gave him. The Pope said, “Oh, I was expecting an Iraqi citizenship!… We are expecting very, very many things from this visit.”