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America StaffMarch 02, 2021
A woman walks past a mural of Pope Francis on a wall surrounding a church in Baghdad Feb. 22, 2021. Pope Francis plans to visit Iraq March 5-8. (CNS photo/Khalid al-Mousily, Reuters)

Pope Francis is making history with his trip to Iraq. The apostolic visit will include a number of firsts: the first pope to visit the birthplace of Abraham, the first pope to celebrate Mass in the Chaldean rite and the first papal trip since the beginning of a global pandemic that is very much still ravaging the world.

Follow along with America for reporting, explainers, podcasts, videos and more that will unpack the significance of this historic visit. Gerard O’Connell, America’s Vatican correspondent, will be on the ground in Iraq following the pope as he zigzags across Iraq meeting civic and religious leaders and touring the Christian communities that are slowly recovering from the destruction wrought by the Islamic State. Bookmark this page, sign up for America’s newsletter and follow America on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Iraq.

The Latest

Pope Francis says Iraq trip brought him ‘back to life’ after a year in Covid prison
Gerard O’Connell

In an hour-long press conference on the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis spoke about how he felt he had “come back to life again” during the visit to Iraq, after more than a year in “prison” when he could not meet people.

‘Peace more powerful than war’: Pope Francis ends his Iraq trip in the land once ruled by ISIS
Gerard O’Connell
Speaking in Mosul, the former headquarters of ISIS, Pope Francis said: aid, “We reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.”

Pope Francis makes history by meeting Ayatollah al-Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims
Gerard O’Connell
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.

Iraq is Pope Francis’ most complicated papal trip ever
Kevin Clarke

The journey to Iraq will be a high-risk standout among the pope’s various efforts to bring attention to the church’s margins.

Pope Francis: Honor the 48 Iraqi martyrs by remaining faithful and working for a better Iraq
Cindy Wooden - Catholic News Service

Pope Francis visited a Baghdad cathedral that is now a shrine to 48 Christian martyrs who died Oct. 31, 2010, when militants belonging to a group linked to al-Qaida laid siege to the church. Pope Francis said their sacrifice must motivate faith and a commitment to working for the common good.

Pope Francis arrives in Iraq to rally Christians despite pandemic
Associated Press

Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns to make his first-ever papal visit.

Background, history and context


In video message, Pope Francis tells Iraq he will be visiting as a ‘penitent’ and a ‘pilgrim of peace’
Gerard O’Connell

In a video message to the Iraqi people on the eve of his visit to their country, Pope Francis said he is coming in three different roles: as a “penitent pilgrim,” a “pilgrim of peace” and a “pilgrim of hope.” Read a summary of the video and the full transcript here.

Listen: Nobody at the Vatican wants Pope Francis to go to Iraq right now. Why is he so set on going?
Inside the Vatican

Listen to a deep dive from the hosts of Inside the Vatican on why Pope Francis is so set on visiting Iraq now.

‘The Iraqi people are waiting for us’: Why Pope Francis is determined to take this historic trip
Gerard O’Connell
Pope Francis wants to express his concern for the people of Iraq and for the Christian communities and other minorities that have suffered violence and persecution.

Pope Francis’ visit will assure Iraqis they have not been forgotten
Christopher P. Clohessy
Pope Francis, by visiting a Shia majority country, completes his pastoral embrace of the Islamic world, begun two years ago with his trip to Abu Dhabi when he met with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb. Father Christopher Clohessy of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies explains.

Why is Pope Francis visiting Iraq?
Behind the Story

Pope Francis’ long-awaited visit to Iraq is just days away, and despite the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic, the pope still plans to go through with the trip. Why is this visit so important? Fr. Christopher Clohessy joins America editor Ricardo da Silva, S.J., for a detailed look at what some people are calling the ‘papal visit of the century.’

Interview: What to expect when Pope Francis makes his historic trip to Iraq
Gerard O’Connell
Cardinal Leonardi Sandri, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches, visited Iraq in 2012 and 2015 and will accompany Francis on this first-ever visit by a pope to what the cardinal calls “a martyred land.” Cardinal Sandri explains the significance of the trip and what to expect from it.

Podcast: Covid spike and rocket attack complicate Pope Francis’ Iraq trip
Inside the Vatican

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.

‘Not a good idea:’ Infectious disease experts are worried about Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq
Nicole Winfield and Samya Kullab, Associated Press
Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him.

Explainer: A brief history of the Christian sites Pope Francis will visit in Iraq
Dale Gavlak, Catholic News Service
The historically rich country is full of religious sites important to understanding the antecedents of the Christian faith, making the visit significant for Pope Francis. Here's a snapshot of some of these places.

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