Pope Francis was greeted by Iraqi President Barham Salih during the first day of his visit to Iraq, Friday, March 5.
READ MORE: Pope Francis begins a long-desired trip to Iraq Friday, the first to the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham by any head of the Catholic Church.
It is the first trip by Pope Francis to a foreign country since the pandemic began, and everyone on the papal plane has been vaccinated against COVID-19. It will be a challenge all the same, though, as cases in the country have surged and there are fears that those hoping to see the pope will forget the social distancing rules.
The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently self-isolating, but the pope has insisted on going ahead with the visit.
In a video message to the Iraqi people, Francis told them how he longed to meet them, see their faces and visit a land that is ancient and an extraordinary cradle of civilization.