Pope John Paul II needed to cancel plans to visit Iraq on the flip of this century as escalating tensions with america undermined negotiations with Saddam Hussein for a papal go to. Pope Benedict XVI needed to cancel his plans due to safety issues.

And nearly till the second he boarded the papal aircraft in Rome en path to Baghdad on Friday, the Vatican cautioned that the go to by Pope Francis might be referred to as off at any time.

However regardless of issues in regards to the coronavirus and a precarious safety scenario — with a army base in northern Iraq focused by a missile strike two days earlier than his scheduled departure — Francis held agency in his need to go to the long-suffering and fading Christian group within the war-torn nation.

Francis has set an formidable agenda that may take him from the Plains of Nineveh, the place Christianity traces its roots again about 2,000 years, to the northern area of Kurdistan, the place his three-day journey culminates on Sunday night with an out of doors Mass for hundreds at Franso Hariri soccer stadium in Erbil.

As Pope Francis arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino airport to depart for Iraq on Friday morning, above, Christian households headed to the airport in Baghdad for his arrival.

Preparations earlier than the pope’s journey have been ongoing, together with at Al-Tahira church in Qaraqosh, under.

Stitching the flag of Vatican Metropolis at a printing home in Erbil.

Safety members from the prime minister’s workplace finishing up precautionary measures inside St. Joseph’s Church.

A police officer standing guard outdoors the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad.

A joint Kurdish and Christian orchestra and choir rehearsing at a stadium within the Kurdish city of Erbil on Monday.

Repairing the Grand Immaculate Church in Qaraqosh earlier than the pope’s go to.

A bit of graffiti depicting Pope Francis on concrete partitions surrounding Our Woman of Salvation Church in Baghdad.