UAE Press: Pope’s Pathbreaking Iraq Trip Seeks Peace

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UAE Press: Pope’s pathbreaking Iraq trip seeks peace

ABU DHABI, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News / WAM - 06th Mar, 2021) A UAE newspaper has said that Pope Francis, the pioneering head of over a billion Roman Catholics, on Friday started his visit to Iraq, his first sojourn abroad since the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

"By entering the conflict-riven country, the unconventional priest took a bold step by defying health and security risks to spread the message of peace and tolerance and love and growth in the middle East," said Gulf Today in an editorial on Saturday.

The paper noted that - via his visit - the Pope is urging the faithful to remain in Iraq and help rebuild the country after years of conflict leading to losses in terms of lives and property.

Pope Francis has talked about the heavy toll paid by Iraq’s Christian communities, saying there had been "too many martyrs".

"I long to meet you, to see your faces, to visit your land, ancient and extraordinary cradle of civilisation," he said.

"I come as a pilgrim, a penitent pilgrim to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism."

Iraq’s Christian community is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, with Chaldeans and other Catholics making up around half, along with Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and others.

The Pope is particularly concerned about the minority community, "who have suffered so much". Thousands were killed when extremists swept through the strife-torn country.

The Pope is also scheduled to visit Ur, birthplace of the prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews. Security has been ramped up to unprecedented levels.

The paper went on to say, "The Pope’s visit serves as a morale-booster to the beleaguered Christian community in the country who don’t feel safe anymore. Some are trickling back to the nation, but others still see little prospect in staying in Iraq and are looking to settle overseas. In a world wracked by Islamophobia, the iconic Pope Francis wants to heal any divisions between the world’s two oldest civilisations, islam and Christianity.

"Inter-faith harmony is key to progress, and the Pope’s Iraq visit wants to emphasise that once again. It’s an effort that shouldn’t make us tired."

During his trip, Pope Francis was gifted a miniature of an extraordinary work of art by President Barham Saleh. It depicts a stage on the path to Christ’s crucifixion, designed by a Muslim artist. Fourteen stone plaques of the journey were designed by Mohammad Ghani Hikmat, one of Iraq’s most celebrated sculptors, who passed away in 2011.

The Sharjah-based daily concluded with a quote from Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), who said, "Pope Francis’s historic trip to Iraq is a clear sign of the humanitarian approach he adopts."