In a video message sent by His Holiness Pope Francis to the people of Iraq a few hours before his trip, the Pope expressed his warmth and affection for them.
“You still bear in mind the images of the destroyed houses and desecrated churches, and in your heart bear the wounds of lost affections and abandoned homes. I would like to bring you the affectionate caress of the whole Church, which is close to you and to the martyred Middle East and which encourages you to move forward,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father will hold his Apostolic Visit to Iraq from March 5-8, 2021.
According to the Vatican News, “Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle Eastern nation comes as the realization of a dream of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, who had planned to travel to Iraq at the end of 1999 but could not make the journey.”
The Pope’s four-day visit said the Vatican News will include visits to several cities, as well as meetings with Christian communities and religious leaders.
Also in his video message, the Pontiff said that he comes as a penitent pilgrim of peace, reconciliation and fraternity.
“I come as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism, to ask God for the reconciliation of hearts and the healing of wounds,” he said.
“And I come among you as a pilgrim of peace, to repeat: “You are all brothers and sisters!” Yes, I come as a pilgrim of peace in search of fraternity animated by the desire to pray together and to walk together, also with brothers and sisters of other religious traditions, in the sign of Father Abraham who unites Muslims, Jews and Christians in one family,” he added.
Pope Francis will depart from Rome on Friday morning, March 5, and arrives at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon. The official welcome ceremony will take place at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad followed by a courtesy visit to the President. He will also meet with civil authorities and members of the Diplomatic Corps. On March 8, The Pope will depart for Rome after a farewell ceremony. (Jheng Prado/RCAM-AOC)