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Biden Calls Papal Visit To Iraq ‘A Symbol Of Hope’

President Joe Biden said Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq “is a symbol of hope” in a Monday White House statement.

“To see Pope Francis visit ancient religious sites, including the biblical birthplace of Abraham, spend time with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, and offer prayers in Mosul — a city that only a few years ago endured the depravity and intolerance of a group like ISIS — is a symbol of hope for the entire world,” Biden said in the statement.

Francis’s visit to the Middle Eastern country started Friday and ended Monday, according to Vatican News. Francis’ trip was his first since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a December Vatican News report.

Francis is the first pope to travel to Iraq since former Pope Saint John Paul II canceled his trip in 2000 after negotiations with former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein broke down.

Biden said “Iraq is a country steeped in religious and ethnic diversity” and is “one of the oldest and most diverse Christian communities in the world,” according to the statement.

“Pope Francis’ visit was a historic and welcome first for the country,” Biden said in the statement. “It sent an important message, as Pope Francis said himself, that ‘fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than death, that peace more powerful than war.’”

“I congratulate the Government and people of Iraq for the care and planning that went into organizing this monumental visit, and continue to admire Pope Francis for his commitment to promoting religious tolerance, the common bonds of our humanity, and interfaith understanding,” Biden said in the statement.

The Catholic pope tweeted the country “will always remain in my heart” and requested everyone unite towards “a future of peace and prosperity that leaves no one behind and discriminates against no one.”

The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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