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WorldPope Francis waves to crowds in Iraq's capital

Pope Francis waves to crowds in Iraq’s capital

Published: 5th Mar 2021 6:10 pm

Baghdad: Pope Francis rolled down the window of his car to wave at some of the hundreds of people who gathered to greet him as his motorcade rolled through Iraq’s capital.

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Crowds waving Iraqi and Vatican flags gathered along Baghdad’s airport road — the scene of regular attacks in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion — to greet the pontiff on the first-ever papal visit to the country. Iraqi authorities hope to highlight the improved security situation after declaring victory against the Islamic State group in 2017.

The Pope, who arrived earlier on Friday, was on his way to the presidential palace where he is to meet with President Barham Salih and other officials. Francis hopes to deliver a message of peace and hope to Iraq’s Christian community, which has dwindled in recent years of war and unrest.

The Vatican had defended going ahead with the trip despite Iraq’s worsening coronavirus outbreak, saying social distancing and other health measures would be enforced. But many in the airport and along the motorcade route were packed together and not wearing masks.

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