The 5 keys to follow Francisco’s trip to Iraq

On Friday Francis will begin his 33rd pontificate trip. Iraq will be the 52nd country I visit.

1.- WHY NOW?
The danger that it will facilitate a spread of contagion is real. However, the Iraqi authorities have decided to continue preparations because other priorities are at stake. If in rich countries there is a debate between opening restaurants or closing them to avoid contagion, in Iraq the situation is different.

The economy and morale are literally in tatters, as are your buildings. If for the West the coronavirus has been hell, for the inhabitants of Iraq the pandemic is one more suffering in its long list of tragedies suffered: the last one, ISIS.

The government considers the Pope’s visit a priority because it will help to lift a declining morale, to put Iraq in the spotlight, and to appease spirits among ethnic and religious groups. This is a priority objective and it is not known when the next opportunity will be. The last one was lost 20 years ago.

The Iraqi people await us. He was waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to travel there. You cannot disappoint a town a second time. Let us pray that this trip can be done well.

Francisco will visit a Christian minority persecuted by ISIS and decimated. The data estimate that in the early 2000s there were one and a half million Christians, just over 6% of the population. In 2015 they decreased to 300,000.

Abraham appears for the first time in the Bible in Ur of the Chaldeans. From there he begins his journey of faith. That is why this place has been chosen for the Pope and other religious leaders to lead a prayer meeting.

With this meeting, fraternity with members of other religions will be strengthened and fundamentalism will be encircled.

In 2019, Francis signed the document on Human Fraternity with the imam of Al-Azhar, a Sunni leader. On Saturday the Pope will meet with Ali Al Sistani, a Shiite leader.

It is not said that joining the fraternity agreement but receiving Francis is a good sign of openness: openness to Christians, to refute that they are not second-class citizens in the, again, incipient state of Iraq. A message is also sent against fundamentalism because all Muslims will witness one of the most influential leaders welcoming a pontiff into his home.

The trip to Iraq will begin on Friday with Pope’s speech before the country’s civil authorities, where he will deliver his most political message. This will be followed by an endearing moment, when you visit the cathedral attacked by terrorists from the fledgling Islamic State in 2010.

Saturday will be the day to strengthen ties with other religions. There will be the visit to Ali Al Sistani and the meeting of Ur of the Chaldeans.

Sunday will be the day dedicated to Christians and the population punished by war. The Pope will tour the cities of Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh. In Mosul, the capital of the caliphate, he will pray for the victims of violence.

This is Francisco’s first trip in more than a year. The last time he left Italy was in November 2019, when he visited Thailand and Japan.

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