The Christians of Iraq are waiting for the visit of Pope Francis, who will visit Baghdad on the fifth of next March in the first visit of the Pope to the country, as it was considered a “historic visit.”
The Pope’s visit received great attention in Iraqi circles, where preparations are being made largely at the governmental, popular and religious levels. The Pope is scheduled to meet the highest religious authority in Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf Governorate, tens of meters from the shrine of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib.
During the past 18 years, Iraq has witnessed a large migration of Christians from the country after the violence that it witnessed and the entry of “ISIS” in 2014, killing hundreds of Christians and confiscating their property.
There are no exact figures on the number of Christians who immigrated, but there are approximate figures indicating the emigration of about one million Christians during the last decade and a half, and there are less than half a million Christians remaining in Baghdad and the northern governorates.
The former Christian representative in the Iraqi parliament, Joseph Salwa, told RT, “The Pope’s visit is unorganized, and has nothing to do with supporting Christians in Iraq. Can the Pope guarantee the rights of Christians in Iraqi legislation? Can he protect them from racism? Absolutely not.”
He added, “The Pope is unable to stop the migration of Christians from Iraq, as Christians continue to migrate from the country towards Europe, America and Australia.”
Saliou pointed out that “Christians in Iraq are still thinking of immigration and waiting for the appropriate opportunity, as they live in fear and anxiety from the governments that followed 2003 as sectarian and racist governments, and do not encourage citizenship and pluralism.”
The Pope’s plane will land next Friday at Baghdad International Airport. According to Iraqi government sources who spoke to RT, “the Pope wants the plane carrying him to be Iraqi.”
According to the same sources, “Italian security services have deployed and monitored for more than two weeks the areas in which the Pope will be present, to secure his visit.”
A Christian girl on the part of Bartella in Nineveh Governorate who works in civil society differs with what the Christian politician Joseph Salwa said, and she saw that “the visit of the Pope is an opportunity to support Christians in the country, and it is a parallel step to what Muslims do in solidarity with each other and obtaining support from them.” Other countries strengthen their presence in Iraq. “
The girl, who refused to be named, told RT: “We hope that the Pope’s visit will be an opportunity for our people to return from abroad and pressure the Iraqi government to provide protection for Christians and find legislation that is fair to them. The Pope’s visit is a great opportunity and I am waiting for it, and I will attend the Mass in Erbil with the Pope.”
This is the first visit of the Pope outside the Vatican since November 2019 when he visited Japan and Thailand and then stopped due to the Corona virus and the measures taken to reduce it.