Iraqi woman who met the pope sees little chance for change
FILE - Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with the Qaraqosh community at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Sunday, March 7, 2021. The pope heard Abdallah’s testimony at a church ceremony in Qaraqosh last Sunday. AdQaraqosh, a majority Christian town in Ninevah, is just one of many that was attacked by IS seven years ago. The militants overran the town, damaged its church and scrawled the proclamation “Islamic State will remain" on town walls. “It was incredible to see the pope, I never dreamed I would be so close to him” she said.
Pope weighed Iraq virus risk but believes God will protect
Francis said the idea of a trip “cooks over time in my conscience,” and that the pandemic was the issue that weighed most heavily on him. Francis, the Vatican delegation and traveling media were vaccinated against COVID-19, while most Iraqis haven't been. Francis said he wasn’t sure if he would have to slow down his usual whirlwind pace on future trips. Otherwise, the only other trip Francis has promised to make is to Lebanon, though he offered no time frame. He said the country's patriarch had asked him to add a Beirut leg onto his Iraq trip but that he had declined, thinking it would be like tossing the country “crumbs," given all Lebanon’s current problems.
Where IS ruled, pope calls on Christians to forgive, rebuild
Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Irbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)IRBIL – Pope Francis urged Iraq’s Christians on Sunday to forgive the injustices against them by Muslim extremists and to rebuild as he visited the wrecked shells of churches and met ecstatic crowds in the community’s historic heartland, which was nearly erased by the Islamic State group’s horrific reign. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was at the heart of the IS so-called “caliphate” and witnessed the worst of the group’s rule inflicted on Muslims, Christians and others, including beheadings and mass killings. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, became IS’s bureaucratic and financial backbone. Things are difficult for those living here.”At Qaraqosh, Francis urged its residents to continue to dream, and forgive.
The Latest: Pope Francis delivers sermon in Baghdad church
Pope Francis, center arrives to concelebrate a mass in the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Francis honored Iraq’s persecuted Christians by celebrating Mass on Saturday at the Chaldean Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. ___6:30 p.m.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he is pleased to see the historic visit by Pope Francis to Iraq. Iraqi and Vatican church officials had promised social distancing and other health measures would be enforced during Francis’ four-day visit to Iraq, especially at his indoor events. Francis’ interfaith meeting in Ur came after his historic encounter in nearby Najaf with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Shiite powerhouse al-Sistani helped shape today's Iraq
FILE - This March, 13, 2019 handout file photo from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, shows senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. The pontiff and ayatollah will meet in al-Sistanis modest home in the Iraqi city of Najaf. (Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, via AP, File)One highlight of Pope Francis' historic visit to Iraq is his meeting Saturday with a revered religious leader for Shiite Muslims, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. ___The 90-year-old al-Sistani is the top Shiite cleric in Iraq and a powerhouse in the Shiite world. After the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, al-Sistani emerged as a powerful voice in Iraq’s political process — a symbol of the ascent of Iraq's Shiite majority after the war.
Pope, top Iraq Shiite cleric deliver message of coexistence
Women wait outside the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021, where Pope Francis, depicted on a giant poster at their back, is concelebrating a mass. AdTogether, the day’s events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity. Al-Sistani is one of the most senior clerics in Shiite Islam, deeply revered among Shiites in Iraq and worldwide. Later, Pope Francis evoked the common reverence for Abraham to speak against religious violence at the inter-faith gathering at the Plains of Ur, near the southern city of Nasiriyah. Associated Press journalists Anmar Khalil in Najaf, Iraq, and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed.
Pope urges Iraq to embrace its Christians on historic visit
Pope Francis is welcomed upon his arrival at the Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation) Cathedral, in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. Pope Francis has arrived in Iraq 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. They received a further blow when IS in 2014 swept through northern Iraq, including traditionally Christian towns across the Nineveh plains. Few have returned — estimates suggest there are fewer than 300,000 Christians still in Iraq and many of those remain displaced from their homes. Many Iraqi Christians cannot find work and blame discriminatory practices in the public sector, Iraq’s largest employer.
EXPLAINER: Pope's risky Iraq trip aims to boost Christians
Iraqi Christians have gathered for mass in the same church that just a week before was the scene of a horrific bloodbath that left scores dead and wounded. The trip will include a private meeting with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond. AdShamasha says Francis will be welcomed by those who stayed, even though his message of interfaith harmony is sometimes difficult for Iraqi Christians to hear. Francis is going to Iraq precisely to encourage these Christians to persevere and remain, and to emphasize that they have an important role to play in rebuilding Iraq. Iraqi Christians were believed to number around 1.4 million in 2003.
Vatican defends pope's Iraq trip amid virus as 'act of love'
The Vatican has taken its own precautions, with the 84-year-old pope, his 20-member Vatican entourage and the 70-plus journalists on the papal plane all vaccinated. Iraq, however, only began its vaccination campaign Tuesday and most Iraqis who come to see the pope won't be inoculated. Bruni noted that Iraq has a predominantly young population and that the current daily caseload was small compared to the overall population. The trip will mark the first-ever papal meeting with a grand ayatollah, the Iranian-born Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani. In between, Francis will travel to southern Najaf to the home of al-Sistani, a figure revered in Iraq and the Shiite world.
Pope moves ahead with plans to meet Shiite leader in Iraq
The Vatican on Monday released the itinerary of Francis’ March 5-8 visit to Iraq, his first foreign trip since being grounded for 16 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 84-year-old pontiff, who has been vaccinated against COVID-19, apparently intends to go ahead with the trip despite the pandemic and lingering security concerns. Francis had intended to visit Iraq that year, as did St. John Paul II in 2000, but both had to call off their trips due to security concerns. The next day, Francis travels to Najaf, home of al-Sistani, one of the world’s leading Shiite leaders. AdThe slow return of displaced Christians to northern Iraq since the territory was liberated from the Islamic State in 2017 remains a contentious issue.
Pope on Iraq trip: Worthwhile even if most watch him on TV
Pope Francis is once again canceling public appearances due to nerve pain. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, file)ROME – Pope Francis said Monday he is still planning to visit Iraq in March, even if most Iraqis have to watch him on television to avoid the coronavirus. “I am the pastor of people who are suffering,” Francis told Catholic News Service during an audience to mark the 100th anniversary of the news agency of the U.S. bishops conference. Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq March 5-8 in what would be the first-ever papal trip to the country. AdVirus cases in Iraq have been steadily dropping since peaking in late summer and are averaging around 800 new cases a day.
Patriarch: Pope to meet Iraqi Shiite leader Sistani in Iraq
FILE - in this Sunday, April 14, 2019 file photo, Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako addresses the faithful during the Palm Sunday service at Mar Youssif Church in Baghdad, Iraq. The Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, provided the first details of Francis’ March 5-8 itinerary during a virtual news conference hosted by the French bishops' conference. The Vatican has confirmed the visit, but it still could be called off given the coronavirus pandemic. Sako dismissed the significance of the bombing on the overall security situation in Iraq and said, “There is no risk for the pope." Francis and the Vatican delegation will have been vaccinated by the time of the trip.
Shiite Muslims mark holy day of mourning in virus' shadow
A health worker sprays disinfectant to sanitize the inside of the holy shrine of Imam Abbas during Muharram procession in Karbala, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)
Shiite Muslims mark holy day of mourning in virus' shadow
(AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)Shiite Muslims are observing the solemn holy day of Ashoura that they typically mark with large, mournful gatherings, in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. In Iraq, pilgrims ordinarily converge on the holy city of Karbala, site of the battle and home to a shrine to Imam Hussein. In Pakistan, thousands of minority Shiite Muslims rallied in various parts of the country ahead of tomorrows Day of Ashoura amid a decline in coronavirus deaths and infections. In interviews with The Associated Press, several Shiite Muslims told of how they are observing commemorations this year. On Ashoura Day which in Iraq falls on Sunday at least one tradition of his will remain unchanged: donating blood.