Pope Francis arrives in Iraq to rally Christians, make ties with Muslims
Francis' visit will be the first for a Roman Catholic pope to the nation.
Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday in the first papal visit to that nation, urging Christians to stay in the country after years of war and persecution.
The pope's trip breaks his year-long COVID-19 lockdown to spend three days in Iraq, hoping to boost morale among Christians in the country's northern region and improve relations with Iraq's Shiite minority.
"I come among you as a pilgrim of peace, to repeat 'you are all brothers,'" Francis said in a video message before his arrival, according to the Associated Press.
Francis is also set to meet with the top Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The two religious leaders plan to meet Saturday.
The Christian population in Iraq dwindled after the 2003 invasion by U.S. and coalition forces and dwindled even further during the rise of the Islamic State terror group in the region.
Pope John Paul II planned to visit Iraq in 1999 but did not.
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