Pope Francis Makes Historic Visit to Iraq


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Matthew Werner, Staff Writer

A couple of days ago Pope Francis visited Iraq and in doing so became the first pope to visit this country. Additionally, this country has had trying times and much division between Muslims and Christians. However, this did not stop Pope Francis from making this trip and meeting with Muslim leaders in Iraq. The Pope’s main purpose of this trip was to spread a message of unity between Christians and Muslims and heal wounds from past actions from both sides. 

Specifically, Pope Francis met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who is Iraq’s leading Shiite Muslim cleric. As pictured to the left, Pope Francis and the Grand Ayatollah meet for the first time to help showcase mutual unity and respect.  

However, many people have criticized Pope Francis’ decision to take a trip amid a pandemic and travel to a country that has recently had a spike in COVID cases. Pope Francis’ spokesperson did respond saying that the Vatican staff accompanying the Pope were all vaccinated and that they have discussed masks and social distancing guidelines to be implemented during the Holy Father’s trip to Iraq. While he was speaking to a crowd of Iraqi citizens, “After these months in prison, because I truly felt in prison, this [trip] for me is like coming back to life.” I think we can all relate the Pope’s emotions and insight about the mental toll the pandemic has taken on each and every one of us. 


As pictured, Pope Francis says Mass at the remains of a Church in Iraq which was destroyed in 2014 by ISIS. 

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Another criticism did not come from the timing of the trip, but from the trip itself. Some Christians felt that Pope Francis’ attempt to bring unity between Muslims and Christians was a betrayal to the faith and the Church. However, the Pope said in a statement that, “There are some critics who say the pope is not courageous but unconscious, that he’s taking steps against Catholic doctrine, that he’s one step from heresy. These are risks, but these decisions are taken always in prayer, in dialogue, asking for advice.” Pope Francis understands that the trip will be controversial, but feels that this healing and open dialogue is needed for these two religions to co-exist peacefully and in harmony. In summary, I do believe that the Pope’s trip is a good start to bridging the divide between Muslims and Christians around the world.