Deep Dive: Why is Pope Francis visiting Iraq?

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Pope Francis takes off for Baghdad on Friday, March 5. Once he arrives in Iraq, he will zigzag the country at breakneck speed visiting civic and religious leaders and touring places that are still recovering from the destruction wrought by the Islamic State.

Since ISIS’ takeover of the Nineveh Plain, the area where most Iraqi Christians lived, three-quarters of those Christians have left the country. Pope Francis is intent on encouraging them and affirming the choice of those who have remained. Along the way, he wants to continue strengthening relationships with Muslims, visiting for the first time a Shia-majority country.

But why go now, when coronavirus cases and violence are both increasing in Iraq? What has given Pope Francis such a sense of urgency around this trip?

On this special deep dive episode of “Inside the Vatican,” host Colleen Dulle speaks with Dr. Amir Harrak, a professor of Aramaic and Syriac studies at the University of Toronto; Rashel Groo, a university student who lived through the ISIS takeover; Jordan Denari Duffner, a scholar of Muslim-Christian relations at Georgetown University; and Gerard O’Connell, America Media’s Vatican correspondent, to explain what the situation in Iraq is like now and why the pope is insistent on visiting, despite the risks.

Find all of America’s coverage of Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq at americamagazine.org/iraq2021

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