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The New Arab Staff

Covid threat puts Pope Francis' Iraq trip in doubt

Pope Francis was due to visit Iraq in March [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2021

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Pope Francis was due to visit Iraq in March.

Pope Francis could put an anticipated trip to Iraq on hold due to the continued threat of the Covid-19 epidemic, according to Italian media.

The head of the Catholic Church was expected to fly on 5 March until 8 March, following a request from the Iraqi government.

He was due to visit the historical site of Ur, believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Ibrahim, as well as cities including Baghdad, Mosul, Erbil and Qaraqosh.

The trip has been put in question due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has ripped through most countries in the world, including Iraq.

"Yes, I had to cancel trips... because in good conscience, I can't be the cause of gatherings of people, right? Now I don't know if the trip to Iraq can take place. Life has changed," he told Italy’s Canale 5, according to Reuters.

Iraqi politicians were anticipating the trip, which follows years of internal strife and the defeat of the Islamic State group by government forces.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a tweet when the pope's visit was announced that it "will be a message of peace to Iraqis of all religions & serve to affirm our common values of justice & dignity".

The Vatican still cast doubts on the visit due to the threat of Covid-19.

"The programme of the journey will be made known in due course, and will take into consideration the evolution of the worldwide health emergency," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said earlier this month.

There is still hope that the pope could visit Iraq if he is given a vaccine.

Papal visits to the Middle East usually attract huge crowds and fanfare.

Pope Francis visited the UAE in 2019 for an interfaith conference and Morocco a month later.

His last overseas visit as pope was to Thailand and Japan in 2019.

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