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Pope Francis arrives in Iraq amid pandemic to rally country's Christians

First pope to visit country
Pope Francis
Posted at 7:07 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 10:08:16-05

BAGHDAD — Pope Francis is urging Iraqis to value their religious minorities and consider them a “precious resource” to protect, not an obstacle to eliminate as he opened the first-ever papal visit to Iraq with a plea for tolerance and fraternity.

Francis told President Barham Salih and other Iraqi authorities gathered at the Baghdad palace inside the heavily fortified Green Zone that no one should be considered a second-class citizen. He said Iraqis of all faiths deserve to have the same rights and protections as the Shiite Muslim majority.

"Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world,” he said.

Pope Francis arrived in Iraq Friday urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns.

He is urging Christians to remain in the country despite persecution from the Islamic State group and the Shiite Muslim majority and has called on them to rebuild the country after years of war

Iraqis are keen to welcome him and the global attention his visit will bring.

Iraq's foreign minister described the visit as a historic meeting between the “minaret and the bells,” saying Iraqis were eager to welcome Francis’ “message of peace and tolerance.”