Shafaq News / As Pope Francis concludes his historic visit to Iraq, Baghdad and Erbil's authorities can get the credit for their success in securing the papal visit that powerfully reiterated the head of the Catholic Church's message - on peace, fraternity, coexistence, and protecting Christians and minorities.
The Pope's visit, which required arrangements, coordination, and cooperation on all political, security, logistical, and popular levels - between Baghdad and Erbil - provided further strong evidence that through rapprochement and cooperation, the two governments could succeed in their tasks concerning the near-impossible difficulties - on the security front - which the visit of the Supreme Pontiff needed in a country such as Iraq.
PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi summed this up by calling for "a genuine national dialogue to reach a final agreement on Baghdad and Erbil's relationship to preserve territorial integrity and address the problems radically".
The Pope's visit to Iraq has been marked by many great positions and attracted the attention of billions of people around the world, not just in Iraq.
"Iraq has always been in my heart. I ask all of you to work together, united for a future of peace and prosperity that neglects no one and does not discriminate against anyone", said Pope Francis at a mass held Sunday at the Franso Hariri Football Stadium in Erbil, attended by some 10,000 people, "God bless Iraq. I pay a special tribute to the dear Kurdish population. I thank the government and the authorities in Kurdistan for its effective contribution".
"We need to remove the greed of power from our hearts while our brothers and sisters suffer. In Iraq, many are carrying the wounds of war and violence", he said in an implicit letter that could be read as addressed to the political authority in Iraq.
"The Church in Iraq is alive, Christ is alive, and your patience is what made me make a pilgrimage to Iraq", the Pope said, adding that he also warned of the decline in the number of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East as "a serious and incalculable harm to the society as it weakens its diversity".
Recognizing the importance of symbols to Muslim and Christian believers and the depth of their faith and sharing the suffering brought about by terrorism, the Pope said, "the city of Mosul has two symbols that bring us closer to God, namely the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and the Al-Hadba Minaret".
To emphasize the message of coexistence and fraternity, Pope Francis said during his mass in The Immaculate Church in Karakosh after expressing his sadness at the destruction, "This time is not only to restore the buildings but also to restore the bonds between all".
Pope Francis was able to see the coexistence between communities and minorities when he arrived at Erbil airport. Where a solemn reception took place and dozens of different religious and national components' representatives stood dressed in their popular costumes waving olive branches and palm fronds to welcome the Supreme Pontiff, in the presence of Kurdistan's president, Nechirvan Barzani, and the head of Kurdistan's government, Masrour Barzani, alongside several religious and civil figures.
"We reiterate our enduring commitment to peace, religious freedom, and brotherhood. We also remember the Peshmerga heroes and all those who made the absolute sacrifices to defend peace and freedom for all Iraqis", said Nechirvan Barzani.
For this reason, the Pope made sure to pay special tribute to the Kurdish population during his meeting with Kurdistan's Democratic Party's (K.D.P.) leader, Masoud Barzani who said, "We are proud of the culture of peaceful coexistence between Kurdistan's people. Our culture of coexistence has strengthened and promoted tolerance and affection". Pope Francis responded, "You received me the same way you have received Christians earlier. After ISIS' attacks, you protected Christians and treated them as brothers. Kurdistan has become a haven for Christians".
During his visit to the historic city of Ur in Dhi Qar on Saturday, the Pope received a gift containing a letter written by Imam Ali when he was a caliph of Muslims more than 1,400 years ago that stated, "People are two types. They are either your brother in religion or your counterpart in creation".
On his first day in Baghdad, where he met bishops, priests, preachers, and teachers in the Sayidat Al-Nejat Cathedral of the Syriac Catholicsynod in Baghdad, the Pope recalled the crime committed in the church against worshippers ten years ago, "Their death reminded us that incitement to war, violence, hatred, and bloodshed is incompatible with the religion".
"I will meet different components in Ur and tell them that religions must serve everyone. The difficulties are part of your daily lives and have forced many of you, Iraqis, to leave your country. Economic and personal security has led to internal displacement and the migration of many from Iraq to other countries", said Pope Francis.
One of the Pope's historical stops was in Najaf, where he met with the Shiite supreme authority, Ali Al-Sistani, who was keen to reassure the Pope of the Shiite authority's interest that Christian citizens live like other Iraqis in security and peace, pointing out the role of religious authority in protecting them and other victims of injustice and harm, referring to the attacks of terrorists in the past years.
The Vatican stated what might be called a "spiritual summit" in Najaf, saying, "The meeting was an opportunity for the Pope to thank Al-Sistani, because he raised his voice with the Shiite community in the face of violence in recent years, in defense of the weakest and most persecuted", in an apparent implicit reference to the Jihad Fatwa launched by Al-Sistani after ISIS invaded large areas of Iraq.
Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi was the first to receive Pope Francis when he arrived from Rome to Baghdad. Al-Kadhimi preceded that with a tweet, " With love and peace, Iraq and its people receive Pope Francis to affirm the depth of the human ties that were and continue to be in the land of Mesopotamia. Welcome the land of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, the prophets, and the saints".
After a joyous public reception attended by musicians and singers from various Iraqi components, Al-Kadhimi declared the 6th of March a "national day of tolerance and coexistence in Iraq" after the Pope met with Al-Sistani in Najaf.
After he arrived in Baghdad, the Pope visited the headquarters of Iraqi president, Barham Salih. He also held a private meeting with The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who welcomed the Pope in "Mesopotamia, the cradle of human civilization".
Salih, the last depositor of Pope Francis to leave on Monday morning, tweeted in Italian, "We say goodbye to the Supreme Pontiff, who was a guest in Baghdad, Najaf, Ur, Erbil, and Nineveh. His visit represents a great message of human solidarity, and his presence among us is a sign of the peace and love that will remain in the hearts of all Iraqis".