Pope in Iraq: Will It Have a Lasting Effect?

Here’s a follow-up to John Allen’s column a couple of days ago, this one written in the middle of his trip to Iraq. Yes, the Holy Father is very much in the news this weekend. John Allen does his usual masterful job of looking at the event from a broader perspective.

Every papal trip is, in a sense, an exercise in storytelling. A pope chooses to travel to a given destination in part because he believes it has a story the world needs to hear, and, for a few days, he lends it his spotlight, so the global media pay attention.

Pope Francis’s March 5-8 trip to Iraq, currently in its third day, is no exception. Iraq’s story is harrowing, made up of upheaval, violence, and unimaginable human suffering, all of it compounded by global neglect. Its Christian minority has been especially afflicted, a point Francis recalls today with his visit to the Christian village of Qaraqosh that was devastated under ISIS occupation from 2014 to 2017.

Certainly Iraqis seemed to get the point. Sunday morning while Pope Francis was arriving in Mosul, a young Iraqi psychology student in Rome named Sana Rofo told Italian TV that she’d never seen her country so united, enthusing, “The pope has performed a miracle!”

Meanwhile, a tweet from an Iraqi Muslim watching the trip unfold was going viral in the country: “I hope the pope comes every year,” he wrote, only half-kidding.

Yet one could make the argument that the most important story being told on this trip, at least from a strictly Catholic point of view, isn’t actually about Iraq but about Pope Francis himself.

Read it all here. Allen concludes with this observation:

If ‘being better’ post-Covid means a deeper sense of human fraternity and solidarity, with a special emphasis on reaching out to those who’ve been scarred by neglect and injustice, is there a better place on earth to make that case than Iraq?

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