Baghdad (IP) - Pope Francis arrived inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, to meet with President Barham Salih and other officials.

Iran PressMiddle East: Iraqi President Barham Salih greeted Francis outside the presidential palace. Both men wore masks as a band played the Vatican and Iraqi national anthems.

Francis, who has been vaccinated along with his entourage, shook hands with several Iraqi officials.

Francis on Friday is scheduled to meet with Iraqi civil leaders and also speak to bishops and other religious figures at the Our Lady of Salvation Church, wherein 2010 gunmen from an affiliate of al-Qaeda killed 58 people.

Earlier today, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, received Pope Francis upon his arrival at Baghdad International Airport.

Pope Francis will visit Baghdad, Najaf (where he will meet the leading spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani), Ur city in Nasiriyah, Nineveh, and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region.

The Pope is currently in the Iraqi presidential palace, where an official welcoming ceremony is being held, provided that he will also meet with representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps.

Pope Francis embarked on Friday on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, his riskiest trip since his election in 2013, saying he felt duty-bound to make the "emblematic" visit because the country had suffered so much for so long.

"I am happy to be making trips again," he said in brief comments to reporters aboard his plane. The coronavirus pandemic has prevented Francis from traveling and the Iraq trip is his first outside Italy since November 2019.

"This is an emblematic trip and it is a duty towards a land that has been martyred for so many years," Francis said, before donning a mask and greeting each reporter individually, without shaking hands.

He will say Mass at a Baghdad church later today.


Read More:

Pope Francis arrives in Iraq for a four-day visit