Pope Francis held mass in front of 10,000 in the city of Erbil. It marks the highpoint of his historic trip to Iraq, which is the first ever by a pope. The pontiff has been touring the northern cities of Erbil and Mosul, the one-time stronghold of the Islamic State. Much of the region was under IS control just four years ago, before liberation by Iraqi and international troops.
Despite Iraq’s lockdown to combat rising Covid-19 cases, the crowds couldn’t be contained with Pope Francis in town. In Erbil, 10,000 flocked to see him hold his last Mass of the trip.
Earlier the crowds lined his intensely secured motorcade route in Qaraqosh, once home to 55,000 Christians before they were driven out by Islamic State, who burned and ransacked much of the city.
Reconstructed almost from scratch, this church welcomed back some of the displaced believers who’ve chosen to return.
Francis also visited the heart of what was once IS-controlled Iraq – the city of Mosul, where he offered words and symbols of peace. It is always wrong, he said, to hate, kill, or wage war in God’s name.
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