ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM IRAQ -- The Catholic Church's commitment to dialogue with other churches and with other religions flows from the Gospel, but Pope Francis said he knows some Catholics disagree.

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IRBIL, Iraq -- Having witnessed or even experienced persecution for their faith, the Christians of Iraq must be careful not to harbor thoughts of revenge, Pope Francis told them.

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BAGHDAD -- Pope Francis told Iraqi Christians that when they suffer discrimination, persecution or war, the Eight Beatitudes are addressed to them.

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QARAQOSH, Iraq -- Amid the rubble and bombed out remains of four churches destroyed by Islamic State militants, Pope Francis paid tribute to Iraqi Christians who endured persecution and even death.

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UR, Iraq -- Traveling to the birthplace of Abraham, Pope Francis urged believers to prove their faith in the one God and father of all by accepting one another as brothers and sisters.

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NASIRIYAH, Iraq -- In a low-key meeting followed closely in Iraq and beyond, Pope Francis and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the influential leader of Shiite Muslims in Iraq, spent 45 minutes speaking privately.

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BAGHDAD -- Visiting a Baghdad cathedral "hallowed by the blood of our brothers and sisters" murdered in a terrorist attack that shook the world, Pope Francis said their sacrifice must motivate faith and a commitment to working for the common good.

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BAGHDAD -- To consolidate peace and ensure progress, the government and people of Iraq must never treat anyone as a second-class citizen and must work each day to promote harmony, Pope Francis said.

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Two years after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis was asked about how long his pontificate might last. “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be short,” he said. “Four or five years. I don’t know, or two, three.”

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VATICAN CITY -- People should fast from gossiping and spreading hearsay as part of their Lenten journey, Pope Francis said.

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While pundits in the West wonder whether Pope Francis really will brave out-of-control COVID-19 infections, shootings and bombings to visit Iraq, there’s not much doubt among Iraqis and others who know the Pope’s commitment to Christianity in the Middle East.

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VATICAN CITY -- Christians must never engage in dialogue with the devil, but instead must fight against temptations with the same spiritual weapons Jesus used in the desert, Pope Francis said.

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It has been 15 months since Pope Francis made a pastoral trip outside Italy and that by itself makes his March 5-8 mission to Iraq newsworthy. But there’s much more at stake here than dipping his toe into foreign waters for apostolic purposes.

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AMMAN, Jordan -- Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and security concerns, Pope Francis hopes to visit Iraq, an opportunity that eluded his predecessors.

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AMMAN, Jordan -- On his historic visit to Iraq in March, Pope Francis hopes to encourage his Christian flock, badly bruised by sectarian conflict and brutal Islamic State attacks, while building further bridges to Muslims by extending fraternal peace.

Published in Vatican