Pope Francis on Friday called for an end to violence and extremism in his address during the first-ever visit by a pope to Iraq.
He was welcomed by Iraqi President Barham Salih with an official ceremony at the presidential palace in the Green Zone in the capital Baghdad, which hosts Iraqi government buildings and many foreign embassies.
The pontiff also met with Iraqi political leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and diplomats there.
In his speech at the presidential palace, the pope urged Iraq to "combat the scourge of corruption, promote justice, and end violence and extremism."
He also addressed the minorities in Iraq, calling on Christians for more "participation in public life" and touched on the sufferings of Yazidis inflicted by the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group, dubbing them "innocent victims of senseless atrocities."
The pontiff noted that the civil war and terrorism have brought destruction and death to Iraq.
"We must leave a better world for future generations. Living in brotherhood requires a real dialogue. The diversity of religions in Iraq raised the country to a special position hundreds of years ago," he said.
Francis said that it is necessary to stand against regional tensions that put Iraq at risk. “The international community has a duty to ensure the development and peace in Iraq.”
He also called for solidarity against the coronavirus pandemic.
‘God always listens’
The pope also shared a post on Twitter regarding his official visit to Iraq.
“I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness from Heaven and our brothers for so much destruction and cruelty; a pilgrim of peace, in the name of Christ, Prince of Peace. How we have prayed, in these years, for peace in Iraq! God always listens. It is up to us to walk His paths,” Francis said.
“Only if we succeed in regarding each other, with our differences, as members of the same human family, can we begin an effective process of reconstruction and leave a better, more just, and more human world to the future generations,” he noted.
Later, he visited Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral in Baghdad, where dozens of people were killed in a terrorist attack in 2010 during a religious ritual.
Francis called Iraqi people for unity and solidarity during his visit to the Cathedral.
“Difficulties have become a part of the daily life of Iraqi people. They are forced to migrate from their countries due to these difficulties”, he said.
Earlier, the pope arrived in the Iraqi capital Baghdad Friday on a four-day official visit.
The state-run Al-Iraqiya TV broadcast live the landing of his plane.
He was received at the Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and a large number of officials and clerics of different religions and sects in Iraq.
He met with Al-Kadhimi in a hall at the airport.
It is also the pope's first foreign tour since the global outbreak of coronavirus.