Pope arrives in Iraq to rally Christians despite pandemic

Coronavirus

Pope Francis walks down the steps of an airplane as he arrives at Baghdad international airport, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. Pope Francis heads to 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. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

BAGHDAD (AP) – 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.

Iraqis are keen to welcome him and the global attention his visit will bring. Iraq’s foreign minister described the visit as a historic meeting between the “minaret and the bells,” saying Iraqis were eager to welcome Francis’ “message of peace and tolerance.”

Francis’ plane touched down at Baghdad’s airport just before 2 p.m. local time (1100 GMT).

A red carpet was rolled out on the tarmac and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was on hand to greet him.

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