Baghdad [Iraq], March 7 (ANI): Pope Francis, who is on a four-day historic trip to Iraq, on Saturday (local time) denounced extremism in the name of religion as "betrayals of religion" and called for friendship and cooperation between religions.
According to CNN, the Pope visited Ur on his second day of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq condemned the violence that has plagued the country in recent years and called for friendship and cooperation between religions.
"All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered. In particular, I would like to mention the Yazidi community, which has mourned the deaths of many men and witnessed thousands of women, girls and children kidnapped, sold as slaves, subjected to physical violence and forced conversions," he said.
"I think of the young Muslim volunteers of Mosul, who helped to repair churches and monasteries, building fraternal friendships on the rubble of hatred, and those Christians and Muslims who today are restoring mosques and churches together," the Pope noted.
Earlier in the day, the head of the Catholic Church met Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf.
It is a significant trip as this is the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, which is considered the homeland of Abraham.
According to CNN, the pontiff on Friday held meetings with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih.
He also met with the clerics and other officials at a Baghdad church, which was the site of the bloody 2010 massacre that killed 51 congregants and two priests.
While welcoming the Pope, Iraqi President Barham Salih said: "Holy Father, we are healing our wounds, and here you are, healing our wounds with us".
The Pope said he sees himself as a "pilgrim" during his visit to Iraq.
"I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty...I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace. How much we have prayed in these years for peace in Iraq," he said.
The Pope sat on a throne under a towering collage of the parish members who died in the terrorist attack, CNN reported.
"We are gathered in this Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, hallowed by the blood of our brothers and sisters who here paid the ultimate price of their fidelity to the Lord and his Church," the pontiff said.
It is important to note that it was earlier speculated that the Pope would cancel his visit to Iraq amid the surge in coronavirus cases and recent new rocket attacks. However, he had reiterated that his visit would go as per the schedule.
"For some time I have wanted to meet that people who suffered so much...The people of Iraq are waiting for us. They were waiting for St. Pope John Paul II, who was not allowed to go," he had said while referring to the trip planned in 2000 that was later canceled after a breakdown in talks between the Vatican and then Iraq President Saddam Hussein.
According to CNN, Iraq has imposed a total curfew for the entirety of the four-day papal visit in an attempt to minimize health and security risks. (ANI)