Today Pope Francis begins his three day visit to Iraq. He plans to visit six cities in this time. On Wednesday this week he asked for our prayers.
“For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much, to meet the martyred Church in the land of Abraham. I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear hoped for fruit.”
The Pope sees himself going in three different role ass: “a penitent pilgrim”, “a pilgrim of peace,” and “a pilgrim of hope.” Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda who leads the Chaldean Catholic community in Erbil said that
“right from the beginning of his papacy he (Pope Francis) spoke about marginalised groups. He is coming to be face to face, to show us he cares about us.”
The Christian in Iraq belong to a range of rites and traditions which include Syriac, Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian and Melkite communities. The total Christian population of Iraq since the U.S. led invasion has dropped from 1.5 million to a estimated number in hundreds of thousands. Besides giving hope to the Christian communities the Pope wishes to pursue Muslim – Christian dialogue. Tomorrow 6th March he plans to meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the world’s most influential Shite Muslim clerics. This will be the Pope’s ninth visit to a Muslim-majority country.
Let us then pray for the Pope as he embarks on this important visit. We pray for all the Christian communities in Iraq that he will meet and we pray for his meetings with Muslim leaders and for a deeper understanding and closer working together of people of different faiths.