Vatican ambassador to Baghdad tests positive for Covid-19

Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq on Friday will not be delayed or cancelled, officials said

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The Vatican's ambassador to Baghdad has tested positive for Covid-19, days before the historic papal visit to Iraq.

Archbishop Mitja Leskovar has been isolating inside The Pope's residence in Baghdad, an Iraqi diplomat told The National.

But the infection of Mr Leskovar, who has been key to planning the trip, will not affect Pope Francis's visit from March 5 to March 8, the diplomat said.

A heath official told The National that contact tracing would be undertaken as a matter of procedure to track anyone who may have contracted the virus from the archbishop.

However, this had not started yet.

For weeks Mr Leskovar had been touring Iraqi cities to prepare for the visit, and meeting senior officials – including Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi on February 14.

Days before that, he held talks with officials in the southern city of Najaf, where The Pope is scheduled to meet with the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani on Saturday.

A senior aide to Mr Al Sistani also recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Ahmed Al Safi is in a stable condition after having the infection diagnosed last week, his office said.

The Pope's visit will include a stop at the ancient Mesopotamian site of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch of the three great monotheistic religions.

He will also visit Baghdad, Mosul and the nearby Christian town of Qaraqosh, and Erbil to meet officials and hold Masses.

The papal visit comes as Iraq is seeing a second wave of the virus, with daily cases exceeding 4,000 this week.

Pope Francis's visit to Iraq - daily agenda