John Cookson is in Iraq ahead of Pope Francis’s scheduled arrival Friday at 2pm local time
– Baghdad – Pope Francis is set to make history Friday, by becoming the first-ever leader of the world’s Catholics to visit Iraq. He brings a message of brotherhood for the people of the country, and much needed hope to nearly half a million Christians who have suffered for decades under the shadow of persecution and war.
“The day after tomorrow,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday at the weekly General Audience, “God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham.”
“Together with other religious leaders,” Pope Francis went on to say, “we will make one more step forward toward the brotherhood of believers.” He invited the faithful to accompany the visit with their prayers, “so that it can develop in the best possible way, bringing the fruits that we hope.”
“The Iraqi people are waiting for us,” the pontiff noted, adding that the sorely tried people of the nation also waited for Pope St. John Paul II, but war kept him from going. “We can’t disappoint these people for the second time,” he said. “Let’s pray that this trip will go well.”
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