Pope Francis's Iraq itinerary: the full schedule

Grounded for over a year, the 84 year-old pope is vaccinated and ready to inspire

A woman walks near a mural of Pope Francis on the wall of a church upon his upcoming visit to Iraq, in Baghdad, Iraq February 22, 2021. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The leader of the world's Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, is making a landmark visit to Iraq on March 5.

His trip is meant to send a message of encouragement not only to his 1.3 billion followers, but to Iraqis trying to recover from the war against ISIS while growing disillusioned with their own government.

During the four-day trip, the pontiff is expected to meet Iraq's prime minister, senior religious figures, and members of the Christian-Iraqi community that endured deadly persecution and oppression under ISIS in 2014.

Here is the full itinerary of the trip.

The Pope's schedule in Iraq, in summary:

  1. Friday, March 5: Arrives in Baghdad 
  2. Saturday, March 6: Najaf, Nassiriya, Ur
  3. Sunday, March 7: Erbil, Mosul, Qaraqosh
  4. Monday, March 8: Farewell ceremony at Baghdad's airport
 

Friday, March 5: Baghdad

Pope Francis begins his four-day trip on Friday.

The pope will arrive at Iraq International Airport, where he will meet Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, before a short ride to the Presidential Palace in Baghdad for an official welcoming ceremony.

He will then visit the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, the scene of a 2010 terror attack where six ISIS suicide bombers killed 58 people, including the church's priest.

Saturday, March 6: Najaf, Nassiriya, Ur

Pope Francis will take off the following day to Najaf for a significant meeting with Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in a bold statement on interreligious tolerance and dialogue.

Mr Al Sistani is six years older than the 84 year-old pope and seen far less frequently. He rarely accepts visitors, although an exception has clearly been made to mark the historic occasion.

Emphasising his endorsement of religious tolerance, Pope Francis will next fly to Nassiriya for an interreligious meeting in the ancient Iraqi city of Ur,  believed to be the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch of the three great monotheistic religions.

He will head back to Baghdad on March 6 in time for Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph before another important day.

Sunday, March 7: Erbil, Mosul, Qaraqosh

On Sunday, March 7, the pope flies to Erbil for a meeting with Kurdish authorities, including the president and prime minister of the Kurdistan Region, who rule over Iraq's largest ethnic minority.

Pope Francis will travel by helicopter to Mosul's Hosh Al Bieaa, which will resound with prayer for the victims of the war against ISIS.

The pope will then head to the heart of Iraqi Christianity in Qaraqosh, where his presence will most strongly resonate for the dwindling community that is at the core of the papal visit.

On his final night in Iraq, Erbil's Franso Hariri football stadium will echo with spirituality as the pope leads Holy Mass.

Monday, March 8: Farewell

Pope Francis will receive a farewell ceremony at Baghdad's airport on Monday morning, before he returns to Rome.

If all goes well, Pope Francis will have created a welcome break in the troubled recent history of a country once considered the beacon of enlightenment in the Middle East.

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