Pope Francis has concluded his epic visit to conflict-prone Iraq, departing by plane from Baghdad after visiting a number of restive cities.
Before flying out early on Monday, the Catholic pontiff met Muslim and Christian leaders and preached peace and coexistence over war.
The pope waved one last time from before boarding an aircraft flying the Vatican and Iraqi flags from its cockpit windows. Iraq’s president, Barham Salih, accompanied the eighty-four-year-old pope down a red carpet to his flight.
During the pontiff’s trip, the first ever papal visit to predominantly-Moslem Iraq, he toured four cities, including the former Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, where vast areas still lie in ruins. He told Iraqis that “peace is more powerful than war.”
“Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart,” he said.
Pope Francis also made a historical first in meeting Iraq’s powerful Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s senior Shi’ite Muslim cleric.