By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis addressed the faithful on Wednesday morning asking them to accompany him with prayers as he sets off for an Apostolic Journey to Iraq.
“The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham,” he said, speaking during the weekly General Audience.
Together with other religious leaders in the country, the Pope continued, he hopes another step forward will be taken “in fraternity amongst believers.”
“I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," he said.
The people of Iraq are awaiting us, Pope Francis concluded, recalling that they had hoped for a visit from Pope Saint John Paul II, who was "not permitted to go".
“One cannot disappoint a people for the second time,” he said, reiterating his request for prayers so that the journey may bring good fruits.
Pope St. John Paul II
Pope St. John Paul II had expressed his desire to visit Iraq several months before the start of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
"If it be God's will, I would like to go to Ur of the Chaldees, the present-day Tell el-Muqayyar in southern Iraq, the city where, according to the biblical account, Abraham heard the word of the Lord," he said at the time.
But the papal trip never took place, and of all countries with a biblical history, Iraq has remained the only nation in the Holy Land not visited by a Pope.