Pope Francis on Monday wrapped up his historic whirlwind tour of Iraq that sought to bring hope to the country’s marginalized Christian minority with a message of coexistence, forgiveness and peace.
The pontiff and his traveling delegation were seen off with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad airport, from where he left for Rome following a four-day papal visit that has covered five provinces across Iraq.
As the pope’s plane took off, Iraqi President Barham Salih was at hand on the tarmac, waving goodbye.
The 4-day foreign visit, which began on Friday, came after a gap of a little over 15 months, because of the Covid-19 pandemic
His last international trip was to Thailand and Japan in November 2019. During the 4 days in Iraq, Pope Francis made Baghdad his base from where he flew to Najaf, Ur, Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in the south and north of the country.
In the spirit of the motto of the apostolic journey – “You are all brothers” – from Matthew’s Gospel, the 84-year-old Pope encouraged Iraqis on this path, saying that only when they learn to look beyond their differences and see each other as members of the same human family will they be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding the country. Thus, they will leave future generations a better, more just and more humane world.
The Pope’s visit has a great significance not only for Iraq but also for the entire Middle East region, especially for Syria. In the footsteps of Christ, the Good Shepherd, the heart of the pastor of the Universal Church went out to seek his sheep, bruised and battered by sectarian strife and terrorism. Caressing them, he assured them they are not forgotten.