Vatican ambassador to Iraq tests positive for COVID-19

File – A woman walks past a mural of Pope Francis on the wall of a Baghdad church before his visit to Iraq. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Vatican ambassador to Iraq has tested positive for coronavirus but pope’s visit will go ahead, he said on Saturday,

Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, who has been the key person planning the March 5-8 trip for Pope France, told Reuters that he as well as several other staff at the nunciature (embassy) were in self-isolation.

“This is not going to influence the pope’s program, which is going on as planned,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Leskovar, who is Slovenian and whose title is Apostolic Nuncio, said he had been experiencing only light symptoms so far.

Francis is due to start a four-day trip to Iraq on Friday to show solidarity with the Christian community that has been decimated by wars and Islamic State insurgents.

The trip by the 84-year-old leader of the world’s Catholics was announced in December, and will take in the capital Baghdad, as well as Ur, a city linked to the Old Testament figure of Abraham, and Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh.

On his first day in Baghdad, Francis will meet with Catholic priests and nuns in the Our Lady of Salvation Church, the site of a 2010 massacre that killed 58 people and was claimed by the al-Qaida group in Iraq, according to AP.

The next day, he will host an interfaith meeting in the ancient day of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, after his meeting with Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

Francis will head to the Kurdistan Region on his last day trip in Iraq. He will visit Mosul and Qaraqosh in the Nineveh plains from the Region.

He plans to celebrate Masses at Baghdad in a cathedral that was the site of a 2010 bloody attack and in a stadium in Erbil.

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