Middle East

Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq, in images

There are no paintings or black-and-white photos depicting how previous popes visited Iraq. Until Pope Francis’s plane touched down in Baghdad on Friday, no head of the Catholic Church had ever made the trip.

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

These are the historic images. And they capture the emotional mix of excitement and somberness marking the multiday event.

On Saturday, speaking at an interreligious gathering near the traditional birthplace of the patriarch Abraham, the pope called for an end to violence, noting that all faiths “look up at the same sky.”

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Francis descends the aircraft that transported him to Baghdad on Friday.

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Kadhimi receives Francis upon the pope's arrival in Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister's Facebook/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister's Facebook/AFP/Getty Images

As Francis makes his way across Iraq, the masks on display record how the 84-year-old leader, himself recently vaccinated for the coronavirus, is visiting despite the pandemic and the risk of his trip becoming a superspreader event.

The massive security presence tells of the ongoing flashes of violence and political instability that still plague Iraq almost two decades after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi Prime Minister's Facebook/AFP/Getty Images

The different religions and traditions given a stage speak to Iraq’s historic diversity, despite the embattled state of its dwindled Christian communities.

And the faces of Iraqis — the smiles, tears and lingering fears — reflect the uncertain road ahead for the war-ridden country at a time of great political and economic hardship.

Iraqi Prime Minister's Facebook/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi President Barham Salih, right, welcomes the pope during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Baghdad.

Ahmed Jalil/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ahmed Jalil/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Men play cards at a teahouse in Irbil, Iraq, in front of a TV showing live footage of the pope's visit on Friday.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

People attend a celebration in a public square ahead of the pope's visit in the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, about 20 miles from Mosul.

Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

Zaid Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images

A motorcade leaves the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation after the pope's visit to Baghdad.

Vatican Media/Reuters

Vatican Media/Reuters

Security guards surround the pope at the cathedral.

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Francis greets onlookers as he enters the cathedral, where he would later give a speech.

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Three children arrive to see the pope during his meeting at the cathedral.

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Francis addresses a meeting at the presidential palace in Baghdad.

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Kadhimi and Francis speak in the lounge of the Baghdad airport.

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Salih, right, welcomes Francis at the presidential palace.

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Ayman Henna/AFP/Getty Images

Francis is greeted by children upon his arrival at Baghdad's Saint Joseph Cathedral.

Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Francis, in the black car, arrives at a meeting near the archaeological area of the Sumerian city-state of Ur.

Andrew Medichini/AP

Andrew Medichini/AP

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani meets with Pope Francis and his delegation.

-/Ayatollah Sistani's Media Office

-/Ayatollah Sistani's Media Office

Francis is welcomed as he arrives for an interreligious service at Ur.

Reuters

Reuters

Francis speaks during the service at Ur.

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

An Iraqi priest celebrates as people wait for the arrival of Francis in the town of Qaraqosh.

Ari Jalal/Reuters

Ari Jalal/Reuters

Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives to conduct Mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil.

Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

People wait for Francis to hold the Mass in Erbil.

Yara Nardi/Reuters

Yara Nardi/Reuters

Francis celebrates Mass.

EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

People in Erbil wait for Mass to start.

Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Francis leads a prayer for victims of war in Mosul's damaged Hosh al-Bieaa, or Church Square.

Andrew Medichini/AP

Andrew Medichini/AP