Pope Francis holds first ever papal mass in Erbil  

Pope Francis holds a “Holy Mass” at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, March 7, 2021.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Pope Francis held the first ever papal mass in the Kurdistan Region’s capital on Sunday, with the participation of 10,000 people.

On the third day of his historic visit to Iraq, the pope delivered a “Holy Mass” at Franso Hariri Stadium, where senior Kurdish officials and foreign diplomats also attended.

The pope arrived in Erbil earlier on Sunday and met with senior Kurdish officials including Kurdistan Region President, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.

He also paid a visit to Mosul and Qaraqosh. The 84-year-old pontiff flew by helicopter from nearby Erbil to both cities.

Amid extremely tight security, Francis held a prayer service for the “victims of war” outside al-Tahira church, ravaged by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

He said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind”.

Francis’s trip is the first papal visit to Iraq, where he has preached coexistence and urged an end to violence in the name of religion.

*This story was updated at 04:53 p.m. EBL time

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