, upon his arrival in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, called on the international community to play a decisive role in promoting peace in Iraq and the entire Middle East.
"The growing challenges call for the entire human family to cooperate on a global scale to confront economic inequality and regional tensions that threaten the stability of these countries," the Pope said in a speech delivered to the President of the Republic of Iraq, Barham Salih.
He added, "Let the weapons be silent," and "let religion be in the service of peace and brotherhood."
He also encouraged the reform steps taken in Iraq, and called for ensuring the participation of all political and social groups, stressing the need to address the scourge of corruption and abuse of power.
Pope Francis arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Friday, on a visit, the first of its kind, for the Pope of the Vatican to Iraq
The visit, which will last for four days, aims to reassure the Christian community in Iraq and promote interfaith dialogue.
The Alitalia plane, which carried the Pope and his accompanying delegation, landed at Baghdad airport from the Italian city of Rome, after a flight that took about 4 and a half hours.
The Pope is accompanied on this trip by a large delegation, including a security official, and about 75 journalists.
The red carpet was furnished to receive the Pope, who was wearing a muzzle, and he was received by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi and senior political figures.
On his first foreign trip since the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, the Pope will meet with the most prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq.
And the Pope had insisted on the visit despite a new increase in the number of Coronavirus infections and security concerns.
Hours after a missile attack on a base hosting US forces on Wednesday, Pope Francis said that Iraqi Christians could not be "let down a second time."
And Pope John Paul II, the former Pope of the Vatican, canceled a visit to Iraq at the end of 1999 after the collapse of talks with the government of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Since that time, the number of Christians in Iraq has decreased from 1.4 million to about 250,000.
Many had fled the country to escape the violence following the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Tens of thousands of people were displaced when ISIS militants invaded northern Iraq in 2014, destroying their historic churches, seizing their property, and giving them the choice between paying tribute, changing their religion, leaving the country, or facing death.
What does the Pope hope to achieve?
The Pope's goal is to encourage Christians and advocate peace during meetings with political leaders and other clerics, according to BBC correspondent Mark Lewin.
Addressing the Iraqi people, Pope Francis said in a video message on the eve of his trip: "I am bringing you a repentant pilgrim to ask God for forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terror, and to ask God to console hearts and heal wounds."
He added, "I meet with you a pilgrim who is longing for peace ... and I seek after the brotherhood, and I am motivated by the desire to pray together and walk together with brothers and sisters in other religious traditions as well, under the banner of our father Ibrahim, who brings together Muslims, Jews and Christians in one family."
The Pope said to Iraqi Christians: "I would like to bring you the tender embrace of the entire Church, the Church that is close to you and the suffering Middle East, and I encourage you to move forward."
Who are the Christians of Iraq?
According to the US State Department, Christian clerics say there are fewer than 250,000 Christians in Iraq, and most of them, about 200,000, live in the Nineveh Plain and the Kurdistan region in the north of the country.
An estimated 67 percent of them are Chaldean Catholics, whose oriental church maintains its own religious rites and traditions but recognizes the authority of the Pope in Rome, while 20 percent belong to the Assyrian Church of the East, which is believed to be the oldest churches in Iraq.
The rest belong to the Syriac Orthodox, the Syriac Catholics, the Armenian Catholics, the Armenian Apostles, as well as the Anglicans, Evangelists and Protestants.
05/03/2021 06:31 pm