The Pope wants to visit Iraq next year in what would be the first papal trip there

Faka’amu ‘a Tu’i Tapu Falakiko ke ne hā’ele ki ‘Iulaki ‘i he ta’u kaha’u’. ‘Oku ‘ikai tokolahi fēfē ‘a e kau Kalisitiane ‘i he fonua’ hili hono pule’i ‘e he kau Mosilemi’ ‘a e pule’anga’ mo e konga lahi ‘o e fonua’, ka ‘oku hā mai ‘a e fakaakeake ‘ia kinautolu hili hono kapusi e kau sihatisi’. Ka lava ‘eni pea ko e fuofua hā’ele faka-Tu’i Tapu ia ki he fonua’ ni. ‘I he 2000 na’e ‘i ai ‘a e alea ke hā’ele ki ai ‘a Tu’i Tapu Sōane Paulo ki he feitu’u ‘i ‘Iulaki ko ‘Ela (Ur) ‘a ia ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e tui na’e fanau’i ai ‘a ‘Ēpalahame’ ka ne iku ‘o ‘ikai lava ‘eni.

By JAMES GANT FOR MAILONLINE and REUTERS

Pope Francis has said he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there.

The pontiff made the improvised remark in an address to members of a group of charities that help Christians in the Middle East and other areas.

He said: ‘A constant thought accompanies me when I think of Iraq. Where I have the will to go next year.’

Wars and conflicts have led to an exodus of Christians in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East.

Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered particular hardships when Islamic State controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out.

Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.

In 2000, the late Pope John Paul wanted to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham. 

It was to have been the first leg of a three-step pilgrimage to Iraq, Egypt and Israel.

But negotiations with the government of then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down and he was unable to go.

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