ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Pope Francis on Monday announced that he wants to embark on a first papal visit to Iraq in 2020.
The Pope made the comments during a speech to a group of charities which provide humanitarian assistance to Christian communities affected by the conflict in the Middle East and other regions.
“A constant thought accompanies me when I think of Iraq, where I have the will to go next year,” Pope Francis stated.
Francis, 82, who began his papacy in early 2013, has been commended for his humility and commitment to interfaith dialogue, notably Christianity and Islam.
He added that he hopes Iraq “does not return to the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts between regional powers.”
Since the fall of the former Iraqi dictatorship regime, the country has been the site of multiple bouts of unrest, the most recent iteration of which was the war against the so-called Islamic State.
When the terror group emerged in Iraq in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The Islamic State killed Christian civilians, forced some to convert to their deluded interpretation of Islam, and destroyed or desecrated churches in cities like Mosul, which it controlled for years.
In January, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, warned that it would be challenging to host a possible visit to Iraq by the Pope due to the many security shortcomings.
Parolin had previously visited Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in December 2018, during which he met with senior Iraqi and Kurdish officials and Christian communities in the country.
During his meetings with Kurdish leaders, the Secretary of State expressed his gratitude to the people of the Kurdistan Region for the way they handled the Islamic State crisis.