Pope Francis visits Iraq’s war-ravaged north on last day of tour

Pope Francis arrived in northern Iraq, where he is planning to pray in the ruins of churches damaged or destroyed by fighters from the ISIL (ISIS) armed group and celebrate an open-air Mass on the last day of his visit to the country.

The 84-year-old pontiff is currently on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, where the Christian community has dwindled after years of war and persecution.

Francis arrived at Erbil airport on Sunday morning where he will be meeting leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

He then headed to the northern city of Mosul, which was heavily damaged in the war against ISIL, to pray for Iraq’s war victims.

The setting will be a city square surrounded by the remnants of four damaged churches belonging to some of Iraq’s myriad Christian denominations.

He is then expected to travel by helicopter across the Nineveh Plains to the small Christian community of Qaraqosh, where only a fraction of families has returned after fleeing the ISIL onslaught in 2014.

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