Where is the popemobile? Your Iraqi papal visit questions answered

Powered by automated translation

The Pope's arrival in Iraq for his first visit to the country was watched live by thousands. His descent from the Alitalia plane and generous welcome are already generating questions from an audience keen to learn more about the Roman Catholic leader and the country he is visiting.

Here's what you need to know.

Is the Pope limping?

The moment Pope Francis lands in Iraq

The moment Pope Francis lands in Iraq

Those watching Pope Francis make his way down the plane's steps and into the airport noticed he appeared to be limping.

The pontiff suffers from sciatica, which flared recently and forced him to cancel some events, which could be the reason for his limp. The condition is caused by a nerve being pinched in the spine, resulting in pain to the lower body. The 84-year-old has otherwise been in good health since his election in 2013.

He smiled widely during his welcome, surrounded by dancers and musicians and accompanied by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

Who is Mustafa Al Kadhimi?

Iraq's prime minister took office in May 2020 and a successful papal visit will no doubt boost his popularity.

He promised early elections and electoral reform, and to combat Covid-19, bring Iraq's many militias to heel, and address violence against the protest movement that has raged since October 2019.

The election date has been moved from July this year to October.

Where is the popemobile?

Papal and Baghdad airport officials told The National that we will not see the popemobile this visit.

The customised vehicle, which allows the Pope to be seen by crowds while keeping him protected, was traditionally made by Mercedes-Benz. But Pope Francis switched to a Hyundai version lately after requesting a more modest approach to the papacy. All the vehicles have the number plate SCV 1 and are usually all-white.

In Baghdad he was driven from the airport in a black BMW featuring the SCV 1 number plate, flanked by 22 motorcyclists and a fleet of Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs reportedly provided by the US to accompany him throughout the visit.

What was the dance being performed on the Pope's arrival?

Pope Francis overwhelmed by musical reception in Iraq

Pope Francis overwhelmed by musical reception in Iraq

After meeting, Mr Al Kadhimi and Pope Francis walked through a crowd of musicians and dancers. The music being played was traditional Iraqi folk music known as chobi, to accompany the dabke-like dance.

Dancers dressed in traditional costumes held hands and moved from side to side with broad smiles on their faces as the pontiff returned their grins.