Pope makes 1st visit to Iraq

Pope Francis is traveling to Iraq on Friday in the country’s first papal visit. ABC News’ Ian Pannell reports on how, after years of persecution, Christians are cautiously returning to Iraq.
6:33 | 03/05/21

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Transcript for Pope makes 1st visit to Iraq
Security preparations are underway in Iraq for an historic visit tomorrow when Pope Francis becomes the first Pope to visit the country. For Christian roots run deep to the days of the Bible but today Iraq's Christian population is dwindling. Persecuted in recent years by Islamist extremists who destroyed their homes and their places of worship. So can the pope's visit bring renewed hope and healing to Iraq's remaining Christian community ABC's Ian panel has report from Iraq. In the empty storefronts at the faceless shopping Mal in Northern Iraq. The fooled in the forgotten he counted in the existence of them are women won't it's not much when of the six slowly painfully he is running in his family of cold this at home. They just an hour's drive was a willed away from their hometown of montella. Full styles one fateful day in the Lucas 2014. When prices came to the dual. Well look as if it. Paul Lewis who disagree. And Sunday's. Came to our Hollis hunt told us to leave. Who to the water. They say the don't ask why just do you and they said that that practice are new to. Reveal who they would kill you know you've been just reading. This city second and even even without without. Journalists. This is a story of an entire religion has been in Iraq since the second century. Tom beats its persecuted. Uprooted. The Christians of Iraq. John homers. Why because we are Christian Arab. The American invasion of Iraq turned sectarian tensions into open walls that. Minorities who lost their protection and were increasingly targeted by a new breed of Islamist extremism. First there was al-Qaeda then came oasis which swept across the new into the brains of the new rules. The heartland and the good recchi christianity Barack. Is the birthplace of Abraham will re Abraham the patriarch of Judaism. Christianity. And it is them who moved but I belong to some claimed even the gunmen have beaten the country has more biblical sites than anywhere else outside of Malden day Israel. The three religions are so closely linked flourished here hundreds of years until the twentieth century. First it was the Jewish population of rooted decades. Today Nancy M and. Today bids christianity in Iraq the faces extinction. Only about a quarter of the million Christians who remain in the country down from at least won the half million just twenty years ago. We were in the region in 27 T. As Iraqi forces formed to take back Christie and towns and the city of Mosul from the blacks. Devices. This was a battle of the ages and large pulse of the old city will flattened by the fighting. I wish shell shocked residents struggled to escape. A dozen to dozen people have just gone by men and women some of them clearly very badly injured Israel hospital is no cash. Just look at there's still the right here this old man just being held vice grandson. Today oasis is gone but the skulls run deep few places more also in the city's Christian community. Chamorro who Francis will come to a rack for the first ever papal trip. You'll see for himself what remains of ultra heroes church with a message of unity for all the Iraqis. It's hard to overestimate the level of bone damage to outset here at church. The Ali says religious police can use this as their base IC said we will go to Rome we will occupy Rome. Well imagine the irony that instead. Of Francis Rome is coming to Mosul. Amid some precedents it security the holy father will meet one of the most powerful Muslim leaders in the region. And visited the Christian town of descends through this tool. Carrot culture O. They used to be 50000. Christians here almost pool fled when Nazis chain. Today barely half of comeback kid but for is that the papal visit will give a much needed boost to this beleaguered community. And I. Here on. Bishop Ramon who greets Pope Francis and he was the first to reenter the church of the immaculate conception asked arises with pushed out. And this is what he filmed. And this is what it looks like today the holy father who would be the fears docent who would they. After the liberation of into believing that this just he would come to know. To me. In this year's with the community. And Hussein of course we are here. The clintons coming here to address the difficulties Christians and others have faced in Iraq there is Soo much physical and mental healing needed. Ice is may have been driven from Kara caution but the pain hasn't film. Georges is 73 years old his sister trying to Zia is 86 the suffering Davin Jules is unimaginable. Prices took their money the old woman's jewelry and all that worldly possessions. And when they had no more to give the militants. They were strewn into the river to drown. That whom is go home they'll always destroyed and they now live in the cold darkroom for whom it's. Families or what design systems you you'll finally. There's a shot that won't know I have been tortured us. They threatened to behead us and took our money our goals they didn't leave us anything. They threw us in the river happy when I tried to save heard the water was very strong and it took my sister that run -- cutting grabbed her shoulder and ask god to help me. Somehow I saved her and took her to the other side we walked for three days without food or water. Until offenses comes here he'll make history. Many will look to him to help deliver their prayers for some glimmer of peace and hope in Iraq. But make no mistake. The challenge and the needs in this country remain demands. And a. Or ABC news he impanel in Karen culture Iraq.

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