Pope Francis begins historic visit to Iraq, calls for end to militant violence

Pope Francis begins historic visit to Iraq, calls for end to militant violence

Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday, the first time a pontiff has visited the war-torn country. It comes amid security concerns due to a recent spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks. The pope was greeted by songs and dances by performers in traditional costumes.

Several Christians in Iraq who were among the limited number of people welcomed to wave at the Pope’s convoy expressed their excitement at the opportunity, calling it a “one of a kind” visit.

During the first day of his visit, Pope Francis delivered a speech about the “disastrous effects” war has had on Iraq and criticized the factional and foreign interests which have destabilized the country and wider region and how it’s hit ordinary people the hardest.

“May the clash of arms be silenced … may there be an end to acts of violence and extremism,” he said, addressing Iraqi President Barham Salih, politicians and diplomats at the presidential palace.

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