VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis expressed his condolences after a suicide bombing in a busy market in Baghdad claimed the lives of dozens of people.

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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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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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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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VATICAN CITY -- Two days after the Iraqi government announced stringent COVID-19 precautions, including the closure of mosques and churches “until further notice,” the prime minister met with the Vatican nuncio to discuss preparations for the scheduled visit of Pope Francis.

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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.

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis said that unless there is a serious new wave of COVID-19 infections in Iraq, he has every intention of visiting the country in early March.

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VATICAN CITY -- In the midst of three days of prayer and fasting for peace and an end to the coronavirus pandemic, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said Iraqis still are counting on Pope Francis to visit in March.

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VATICAN CITY - Barring any obstacles caused by the global pandemic, Pope Francis is set to begin international travel again in 2021 by visiting Iraq in March, which would make him the first pope to visit this nation.

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VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis met with Iraq's president for private talks underlining the need for promoting stability, reconstruction, national sovereignty and dialogue in the country as well as guaranteeing security for Christians.

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In the wake of rising tensions in the Middle East which have seen the assassination of Iran’s top general and the downing of a civilian airliner, Canada can expect an escalation of refugee applications, say representative of aid agencies familiar with the region.

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What does war look like? It has many faces and countless innocent victims.

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Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, responding to a U.S. drone attack in Baghdad that killed Iran's top general, said "wisdom is required to avoid the 'volcanic eruption' we are about to face."

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