Baghdad (AsiaNews) The Pope's trip to Iraq in March 2000 was meant to be a pilgrimage to the places of the story of salvation and include Abraham's own town, Ur of the Chaldeans, (today's Tal al-Muqayyar near Basra). But it was not meant to be: the impossibility to ensure the Pope's safety and conditions imposed by Saddam Hussein's regime prevented him from travelling to the homeland of the great biblical patriarch. The Holy Father compensated for this inability two ways: once in Rome, the other in Jordan.
On February 23 of the Jubilee Year, he went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Aula Nervi in Rome. During a ceremony entitled Commemoration of Abraham, Our Father in the Faith, he prayed before Andrei Rublev's Trinity Icon which reproduces the three angels who appeared to Abraham (cf Gen 18), the sign of the oak tree, which evokes the oak trees of Mamre in the same biblical passage, and a stone that recalls Isaac's sacrificial altar.
On that occasion, the Pontiff said that "not only those who can claim direct descendance from him but also those who feel a spiritual descendance can turn to him because they share his faith and have like him surrendered to the salvific plan of the All-Mighty".
A second chance to revere the land of Abraham came on March 20, 2000, when he landed in Amman (Jordan) for his Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Here, he was able to touch some earth from Ur and some fragments of from the house of the patriarch of the Old Testament that two Iraqi bishops had brought, sent by Mgr Emmanuel Delly, Patriarch of Baghdad, to express the closeness of Iraqi Catholics to the Pontiff, Vicar of Christ. (LF)