Pope in video message to Iraqis on eve of visit

Pope in video message to Iraqis on eve of visit
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Pope Francis greeted by Iraq prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq. (@IraqiPMO)

ROME: Pope Francis said in a video message on Thursday that he wants to be seen by the Iraqi people as a “penitent pilgrim” asking God for “forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism,” and for “consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds.”

The video was published by the Vatican the day before the start of his historic visit to Iraq. “I come among you like a pilgrim of peace and I repeat, you are all brothers,” the pope said.

“I come as a pilgrim of peace in search of fraternity animated by desire to pray together and to walk together, also with brothers and sisters belonging to other religious traditions.”

Addressing Christians in Iraq, he said: “You testified to your faith in Jesus through very hard trials … You had too many martyrs there. May they help us to persevere in the humble power of love.”

He added: “You still have in your eyes the images of destroyed houses and profaned churches. You had to flee your homes. I would like to bring you the affectionate caress of the whole Church, which is close to you and to the battered Middle East, and encourages you all to move forward.”

The papal visit to Iraq is one of the most complicated that the Vatican has had to organize, mainly because of security concerns and restrictions due to coronavirus.