Pope ends historic visit to Iraq, flies back to Rome

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ended his historic trip Iraq, boarded a plane back to Rome on Monday after a four-day visit in which he delivered a message of forgiveness, perseverance, and hope.

Francis is the first pope to travel to Iraq, a visit that the Christians in the north of the country, in particular, had long waited for.

The head of the Roman is expected in Rome early Monday afternoon after departing Baghdad in the morning.

On Sunday, the 84-year-old flew to Mosul and Qaraqosh, where he was greeted by crowds of believers in spite of the .

In Mosul, Francis prayed on the church square, which with its destroyed houses of worship became a symbol of the suffering of Christians during the against the terrorist militia Islamic State

There were once more than 1 million Christians in Iraq, but now their population is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000 after years of war, religious persecution and a steep economic decline.

The pontiff landed in Baghdad on Friday, defying the global pandemic and security concerns after a series of recent attacks in Iraq.

During his trip, he also met Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani and held an interfaith in the ancient of Ur in today’s southern Iraq.