Papal Visit to Iraq

In March, the pope went on a historic trip to Iraq. His motivation for this trip was to end years of religiously motivated conflict in the region. Some experts like John Davison and Philip Pullella  are calling this “his most risky foreign trip,” (Pullella & Davison, 2021).

This trip is very monumental as it is the first papal visit to Iraq ever. It is also very significant as there have been large amounts of turmoil in the region. The pope also participated in inter-faith prayers during the visit. These types of prayers are increasingly common, but nonetheless still controversial. Many Catholics call these types of prayers “blasphemous” (Parker, 2020). The pope has addressed these claims, saying “Maybe there will be someone who will say, ‘This is religious relativism and it cannot be done’,” Francis said. “But how can we not pray to the father of us all? Each one prays as they know how, as they are able to. We are not praying one against the other, one tradition against another…[but] as brothers.”

There were many security concerns regarding the visit but thankfully there were no major violent incidents as this visit has been described as having “the tightest security ever seen for a papal visit” (Pullella & Davison, 2021). The last major violent jihadist attack in Iraq occurred just 2 months before the papal visit. The attack was a double suicide bombing in busy Bagdad market. There were 32 casualties and at least 100 people were injured. The jihadist group ISIS took credit for the attack. One of the stops on the pope’s itinerary, Mosul, a former Islamic state stronghold, was only liberated officially on July 10th 2017, although fighting continued until the 21st.

There is a significant Christian presence in Iraq, although they are a religious minority. There are approximately .5 million through 1.5 million Christians out of the countries of estimated 38,433,600 residents. Approximately 1 million Christians have emigrated from Iraq since the Iraq war amid the threats of violence against them.