On Monday, Pope Francis returned from his historic apostolic journey to Iraq. It was the first time a pope had ever visited a Middle Eastern country, after Pope Saint John Paul II’s invitation was rescinded by Saddam Hussein’s government.
“An Apostolic Journey to Iraq that took him to 6 cities and sites in the north and south of the country. He comforted the people, especially Catholics and Christians, harshly tried by sectarian violence and terrorism, and appealed for tolerance, fraternity, hope and peace. In the spirit of the motto of the apostolic journey – “You are all brothers” – from Matthew’s Gospel, the 84-year-old Pope encouraged Iraqis on this path, saying that only when they learn to look beyond their differences and see each other as members of the same human family will they be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding the country. Thus, they will leave future generations a better, more just and more humane world.”
On the return car trip to the Vatican after his arrival in Rome, Pope Francis visited the Borghese chapel at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pause in prayer before the ancient Roman icon, the image of Maria Salus Populi Romani.
Pope Francis brought with him a bouquet of flowers from Iraq, which he placed on the altar at the foot of Our Lady’s image. He thanked the Virgin Mary for her protection, asking for it before he left for Iraq.
Afterwards he returned to his residence at the Casa Santa Marta to rest.
President Joe Biden called Pope Francis’ trip a “historic and welcome first for the country” that “sent an important message, as Pope Francis said himself, that ‘fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than death, that peace more powerful than war.’”