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Pope Francis will visit Iraq in March

Pope Francis will visit Iraq in his first international trip in 15 months. He will travel to four Iraqi provinces from March 5-8, the Vatican announced on Monday. “He will visit Baghdad, the plain of Ur, linked to the memory of Abraham, the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh,” the Vatican said in a statement. The pope has long wanted to travel to Iraq, the Vatican News website reported. Last year he told a meeting of Catholic aid agencies that he planned on traveling there in 2020. The pope met with Iraqi President Barham Salih in an audience in the Vatican on January 25. They spoke about “preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country” and “highlighting the need to guarantee their security and a place in the future of Iraq,” according to a statement released by the Holy See Press Office after the visit. There are about 300,000 to 400,000 Christians of all denominations living in Iraq.