Pope Francis cancels visit to Iraq

VATICAN CITY – During an impromptu conversation with Iraqi visitors during a meeting with the public in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Pope Francis said he would not visit Iraq this year as he wanted to due to security concerns.

Iraq is witnessing protests condemning the corruption of the political class and recently has seen the transmission of Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, in multiple locations.

The Pope sent a message to the people of Iraq, saying, “I tell you, the people of Iraq, I am very close to you. You are in a war, suffering from war from many sides, I pray for you and for your country, which was in my visits program this year.”

The Pope said in June that he wanted to visit Iraq in 2020, but security concerns have made the Vatican reluctant to announce a trip and no official preparations have been made.

Last month, Pope Francis had met with Iraqi President Barham Saleh and agreed on the need to respect Iraq’s national sovereignty. This came in the presence of the attacks launched by the United States and Iran on Iraqi territories.

It is noteworthy that the presence of Christians in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East has witnessed a decline due to wars and conflicts. Iraq has also witnessed, since last October, unprecedented protests, during which about 550 people were killed and 30,000 others were injured, the vast majority of them demonstrators.