Pope Francis visits Iraq from March 5-7. It is the 33rd trip of his pontificate, one that is already branded as historic. His first stop is in Baghdad. There, many of the Christians who returned after the 2003 war were victims of plunder. Few engage in a legal battle to get their homes back.
The Pope’s tour was canceled last year. Now it will be a fact despite the fact that the country is confined by the coronavirus pandemic and the security risks that this displacement brings. Francis will first visit Baghdad.
The Supreme Pontiff will have as mission bring a message of encouragement to Iraqi Christians, which in recent years have been victims of displacement, persecution and violence. It is also expected to invite cohabitation and tolerance in a Muslim-majority country, where Christians are a minority. Francis will visit Baghdad, Mosul, Erbil, Najaf and Qaraqosh.
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The trip will have an emotional weight, because in the plain of Ur, patrimony of the three monotheistic religions, the Christian faith originated because it is the land of Abraham. During his stay, the pope will mobilize aboard a covered armored car on a route whose security has been reinforced for the occasion.
The first stop on the pope’s trip will be in Baghdad, where he will celebrate a mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
After the 2003 war, many Iraqi Christians fled the capital, leaving behind everything they had.
Upon their return, some found their homes and lands occupied by armed men who would have links to senior government officials. To recover their assets, these militias ask for thousands of dollars relying on false deeds.
Some have chosen to report the illegal takeover of their homes to the authorities, but to no avail. Others abandon the idea out of fear and because they do not believe that their complaints will succeed.