ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis said he is not sure if his trip to Iraq in March can take place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He cast doubt on the trip, which would be the first by a pope to the country, in an interview with Italy’s Canale 5 broadcast on Sunday night.
Francis spoke in a section of the interview about how his life had changed because of the pandemic and how he had to cancel trips that had been planned for last year.
“Yes, I had to cancel trips … because in good conscience, I can’t be the cause of gatherings of people, right? Now I don’t know if the trip to Iraq can take place. Life has changed,” he said.
The March March 5-8 trip is due to take the pope the capital Baghdad, as well as Ur, a city linked to the Old Testament figure of Abraham, and Erbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh in the plain of Nineveh.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a post on Twitter when the trip was announced last month that the trip “will be a message of peace to Iraqis of all religions & serve to affirm our common values of justice & dignity.”
The 84-year-old pope is expected to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this week. He said in the interview everyone who is able should get vaccinated.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Peter Graff)