Pope Francis will travel to Iraq in March 2021, the Vatican press office announced.
His trip to the war-torn country could be his first outside of Italy since the coronavirus pandemic began. Francis is set to “visit Baghdad, linked to the memory of Abraham, the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh” from March 5 to 8, the Vatican communique said.
It added, “The program of the journey will be made known in due course, and will take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency.”
Iraq’s foreign ministry said, “It also represents a message of peace to Iraq and to the region as a whole.”
The Pope has long sought a trip to Iraq, Vatican News reported, and told a meeting of Catholic aid agencies last year that he wanted to travel there in 2020.
Despite its shrinking Christian population, Iraq figures heavily in the Bible. The Tower of Babel, Abraham’s plains of Ur, the Garden of Eden and other biblical places are located in Iraq.