Vatican City, Holy See | AFP | The conditions for a possible visit to Iraq by Pope Francis have not yet been met, the Vatican number two said on Wednesday, citing concerns about the possibility of a terrorist attack targeting the pontiff.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, told the Catholic TV channel TV2000 that “the problem of terrorism has not been resolved”.
Parolin spoke about the security situation after visiting the troubled country, saying a papal trip to Iraq imposed a “minimum of conditions” that “are not currently met”.
Discussing terrorism, he said the Iraqi authorities confirmed that “the roots of this phenomenon are still present”.
Iraq has been a battleground for competing forces, including the jihadist Islamic State group, since the US-led ouster of President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Francis, 81, has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy.
He will visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in February and Morocco in March.
Parolin told Vatican News on Friday that the pontiff wants to visit Iraq: “It would certainly be a great encouragement to Iraqis in the difficulties they still have to face.”
The pope has already visited several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.
Pope Francis moved quickly after his election in 2013 to make overtures to Jews and Muslims, inviting two old friends from Buenos Aires — a rabbi and a Muslim professor — on a trip to the Middle East where he condemned religious hatred.