Because of continuing sporadic violence, Pope Francis’ historic trip to Iraq on March 5th through 8th , 2021 involved a massive security operation using thousands of Iraqi police and military. Even the Vatican police and Swiss Guards who accompanied him wore bulletproof vests under their suits, when they normally do not. But the other danger for the trip was the risk that people gathering together to see the Pope would create a surge in the rising number of COVID 19 virus cases in Iraq. Pope Francis said the pandemic, not the security issue, was his big concern. He said he “thought so much and prayed so much” about the trip because of the pandemic. In the end, he made the decision to go and he said “the one who helped me decide this will take care of the people.” The 84 year old Francis made his 33rd apostolic journey as Pope, and he was visibly physically taxed by the trip. He suffers from sciatica and he limped badly at the greeting ceremonies. He met with President Barham Salih and his wife as well as Iraqi and Vatican delegations. He visited 6 cities and sites in the north and south, using Baghdad as his base. He comforted the people, especially Catholics and Christians who have been the victims of violence and terrorism, and he appealed for tolerance, fraternity, hope and peace. He encouraged the Iraqis saying that only when they learn to look beyond their differences and see each other as members of the same human family will they be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding the country. Thus they will leave future generations a better, more just and more humane world. Pope Francis went to the old city of Mosul and was visibly moved by the devastation from the war with ISIS militants who overran northern Iraq in 2014. They had since been driven out by an international military coalition. Isis had once boasted that it would invade Rome and defeat Christianity. Instead the Bishop of Rome went to the former heart of ISIS and held a prayer service for the victims of the war. In Quaraqosh, he urged the local Christians to rebuild their communities based on forgiveness and fraternity. The Pope privately met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the world’s leading figures among Shiite Muslims. A frail 90 year old, but still with a sharp wit who makes every comment with care. They met at al Sistani’s simple house located down a narrow alleyway which Francis shuffled through. The Vatican Press Office said “the Holy Father stressed the importance of cooperation and friendship between religious communities – through the cultivation of mutual respect and dialogue – to the good of Iraq, the region and the entire human family. He thanked al-Sistani for speaking up for the most vulnerable and persecuted amid the violence. Francis went to Ur of Chaldeans, the traditional site of prophet Abraham‘s home, the Biblical figure revered by Jews, Christians and Muslim alike. A prayer meeting of the three religions was held and in the evening Francis celebrated his first Mass in Iraq. In his homily, he reflected on how Christians can help God fulfil His promises for the world by living and witnessing to love in the Beatitudes, the eight blessings recounted by Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount