Inside the VaticanFebruary 17, 2021
A man is treated at a hospital in Irbil, Iraq, Feb. 16, 2021, after he was injured during a rocket attack the previous evening on U.S.-led forces near Irbil International Airport. Pope Francis is scheduled celebrate Mass March 7 at Irbil's Franso Hariri Stadium during his four-day visit to the country. (CNS photo/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)

Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq, scheduled for March 5-8, has been thrown into further question in recent days. Following the discovery of the new UK-based strain of the novel coronavirus, Iraqi authorities closed businesses and places of worship, including those where the pope was expected to hold events during his visit.

A rocket attack near the Erbil airport on Feb. 15 has also heightened security concerns, as the pope was expected to meet leaders from Iraqi Kurdistan at the airport. Despite the concerns, the Vatican insists that the trip is going forward.

Listen to “Inside the Vatican” on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

This week on “Inside the Vatican,” host Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell look at the challenges of planning this papal trip. “When I asked some people in the Vatican, ‘Well, how is this going to be possible with the lockdown?’ They said, well, you know, there's always an exception to a rule,” Gerry said.

Gerry and Colleen also give updates on the church’s involvement in protests in Myanmar, Pope Francis’ praise for a new Colombian law granting protections to Venezuelan refugees, and the plans for Ash Wednesday services in the Vatican.

Correction 2/17/2021: A previous version of this article stated that the pope would depart for Rome from the Erbil airport. He will fly from Erbil to Baghdad.

Links from the show:

Iraq announces Covid-19 restrictions ahead of papal trip

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo on Twitter

America Magazine’s documentary on Venezuelan refugees

America Magazine’s Lent 2021 Reflections, podcasts and more

The latest from america

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, Iraq, on March 7. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis concluded his three-day trip to Iraq with a stadium Mass in which he said the country “will always remain with me, in my heart.” America's Vatican correspondent, Gerard O’Connell, reports.
Gerard O’ConnellMarch 07, 2021
On the final day of his historic trip to Iraq, Pope Francis said, “To cleanse our hearts, we need to dirty our hands, to feel accountable and not to simply look on as our brothers and sisters are suffering.”
Pope FrancisMarch 07, 2021
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam's most authoritative figures, meets with Pope Francis in Najaf, Iraq, on March 6. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
On the second day of his trip to Iraq, Pope Francis met with a Shia Muslim leader in Najaf and delivered a message of religious unity in the ancient community of Ur. Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell reports.
Gerard O’ConnellMarch 06, 2021
Pope Francis is pictured with religious leaders during an interreligious meeting on the plain of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq, March 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis' prayer at the interreligious meeting at Ur, Iraq on Saturday, March 6.
Pope FrancisMarch 06, 2021