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Pope Francis voices hesitation over scheduled visit to Iraq

Pope Francis has voiced hesitation over whether his scheduled visit to Iraq will take place due to the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with Italian media.

“In good conscience, I cannot cause gatherings, right? Now I don’t know if the next trip to Iraq will take place,” said the pontiff during an interview with Italy’s Channel 5, aired on Sunday night.

Pope Francis in early December announced that he would be making the first ever papal visit to Iraq between March 5 and 8, overjoying many in the country’s dwindling Christian community.

“We’re all so happy. We have been waiting for this for so long,” 45-year-old Adiba Henna told AFP from the Nineveh Plains’ St. Adday Chaldean Church in December.

Iraq, a land revered by Christians for its featuring in the Bible, has only a few hundred thousand of those in the faith left in the country.

According to William Warda, co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation, Christians left in Iraq number up to 400,000, down from 1.5 million in 2003, reports AFP.

Several waves of violence since the US-led invasion have led many from the religious minority to flee the country. Others have moved for economic reasons.

The Catholic leader said his March visit would include stops in Erbil, Baghdad, Mosul, the plain of Ur and Qaraqosh. Source