Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.
The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.
- The trip comes after two decades of attempts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, a prophet considered the patriarch of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Between the lines: Recent rocket attacks and the presence of rogue Shiite militias have heightened concerns for security.
- Iraq's number of daily coronavirus cases has also been on the rise since late January, according to Johns Hopkins University.
- The pope is expected to travel in an armored car with a security detail, per AP.
- March 5: Welcome ceremony with civil authorities and visit with the president at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad. Visits Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation.
- March 6: Visit with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani in Najaf. Inter-religious meeting in Nassirya and Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Baghdad.
- March 7: Meeting with religious and civil authorities from Iraqi Kurdistan in Erbil. Prayer for victims of war and visit with the Qaraqosh community in Mosul.
- March 8: Farewell ceremony in Baghdad.