Noting how war kept John Paul II from visiting the "martyred Church in the land of Abraham," pope asks for prayers for journey.
“One cannot disappoint a people for the second time,” said Pope Francis on March 3 as he asked for prayers for his journey to Iraq this weekend. His comment about disappointing a people a second time is a reference to how Pope John Paul II had desired to visit Iraq on pilgrimage to the birthplace of Abraham during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, but he was not permitted to go because of the war.
Pope Francis said at the end of today’s general audience:
The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham. Together with the other religious leaders, we shall also take another step forward in brotherhood among believers. I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits. The Iraqi people are waiting for us; they awaited Saint John Paul II, who was not permitted to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be a good one.
One of the important stops on the pope’s agenda — which he referred to as “another step forward in brotherhood among believers” — is his meeting with Shia Muslim leader Ali al-Sistani.
The two are expected to sign a joint declaration. It will be another step in the pope’s efforts to nourish brotherhood, following the Declaration on Human Fraternity, the joint declaration signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi in 2019, with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, a major leader in Sunni Islam.