Shafaq News/ Pope Francis on Monday leaves Iraq ending his historic visit which is described of bringing hope to the country's Christian minority with a message of coexistence, forgiveness and peace.
The pontiff and his traveling delegation were seen off with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad airport, from where he left for Rome following a four-day papal visit that has covered five Governorates across Iraq.
As the pope's plane took off, Iraqi President Barham Salih was at hand on the tarmac, waving goodbye.
Salih said, tweeting in Italian, "We bid farewell to His Holiness, Pope Francis, who was a dear guest in Baghdad, Najaf, Ur, Erbil and Nineveh. His visit represents a great humanitarian message of solidarity, and his presence between us is a sign of peace and love, and that will remain in the hearts of all Iraqis." The President said in Italic on twitter.
Pope Francis began his historic visit to Iraq on Friday, the first by a pontiff to the birthplace of the Eastern churches from where more than a million Christians have fled over the past 20 years.
The pope’s visit has a highly symbolic value given the importance of Iraqi Christians in the history of the faith and their cultural and linguistic legacy dating back to the time of ancient Babylon, nearly 4,000 years ago.
At every turn of his trip, Pope Francis urged Iraqis to embrace diversity.
He met the Christian communities of Baghdad, Mosul and Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city in the Nineveh Plains, where, in 2014, the ISIS armed group wiped out the remnants of the Christian presence that had survived al-Qaeda’s violent campaigns, causing tens of thousands to flee and find refuge in Kurdistan, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
In Erbil, the pope met the Kurdish authorities and some of the 150,000 Christian refugees from central Iraq.
Pope Francis prayed for “victims of war” outside a ruined church in Iraq’s Mosul, where ISIS ravaged one of the world’s oldest Christian communities until its defeat three years ago.
With the partially collapsed walls of the centuries-old Al-Tahera (Immaculate Conception) Church behind him, Pope Francis made a plea for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East to stay in their homelands.
The pope, who in 2019 inaugurated a new phase of interfaith dialogue between the Roman Church and Islam, also visited Najaf to meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shia authority in Iraq where Shia Muslims represent about 70 percent of the total population.
Source: Shafaq News Agency + AP