Bishop Yaldo: Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq in March will bring 'immense joy' to Christians and Muslims
The pontiff will visit the Arab country from 5 to 8 March 2021. For the visit’s general coordinator, this is “confirmation of the country’s greater stability”. His presence in Mosul will help heal the wounds caused by jihadist madness. The highlight will be in Ur of the Chaldees “because for us Christians, Muslims and Jews, Abraham is the prophet of all religions”.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Vatican Press Office has announced that Pope Francis will undertake an apostolic journey to Iraq in March of next year.
For the Church in Iraq, for Iraqi Christians and for the whole country, including Muslims, this “represents a source of great and immense joy, which we have been waiting for many years, since the time of Pope John Paul II, in 2000, with the first reports of a journey that was not possible then,” said Mgr Basel Yaldo, Auxiliary Bishop Baghdad, a close aide to the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.
“By accepting the invitation of the Republic of Iraq and the local Catholic Church, Pope Francis will make an apostolic journey to that country from 5 to 8 March 2021,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, in announcing the visit.
Bishop Yaldo is the visit’s general coordinator for the local Church. He will take care of all the details of the apostolic journey, which includes the city of Ur of the Chaldees, important for its links to Abraham, as well as Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in the Nineveh plain, as well as the capital Baghdad.
“Already in 2019, there was talk of this trip but the situation was not stable,” noted the prelate, but now the conditions “are present” despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Pope's visit comes as confirmation of the country’s greater stability,” Bishop Yaldo explained. This is happening “also thanks to the work of the current Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and President Barham Salih, key to overcoming the many difficult situations of the past.”
The prelate stressed the great consideration shown by the president for the pontiff, whom he met in “two official visits” in the past year or so.
“The Pope's visit is a dream for us and a great responsibility for me as coordinator,” the bishop said. The announcement “gives courage to all Iraqi people, not just Christians; it is a show of strong solidarity, peace and fraternity for the whole nation.”
Muslims perhaps “are possibly happier than us. The whole nation is happy. For some time, Muslim leaders have been asking me about when the pope was coming; finally, the moment has come. We are a small flock, but of great relevance.”
The visit’s schedule is still not set. However, the prelate noted the pontiff’s “desire to go to Mosul, for a long time a stronghold of the Islamic State, where the worst crimes of jihadist madness were committed.”
“The Pope wants to go to Mosul and pray for the victims of the Islamic State” and the violence that took place in the city.
“This Christmas will be special as we wait for the visit.” In the meantime, “we must do our best to ensure that it has the historical, cultural and religious importance it deserves.”
The “stop in Ur of the Chaldees will be the high point because for us Christians, Muslims and Jews, Abraham is the prophet of all religions,” Bishop Yaldo said.
Abraham “represents the sign of unity for all of us who inhabit this land, for us who are in Iraq. Seeing Abraham’s house will be a great symbol of unity for all religions that have this element in common.
“This visit will give an enormous boost to the country’s future and will guarantee great visibility to Christians. The Pope will give great significance and relevance to their presence and their suffering.”