By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
An Iraqi newspaper is claiming that an unnamed lawmaker said Pope Benedict XVI may visit Baghdad as part of his Middle East tour because it “would let him see the situation on the ground, particularly for the (Iraqi) Christian community.”
The newspaper, al-Sabbah, is the same publication that announced President Barack Obama’s April visit to Baghdad weeks before the trip took place. It is now saying the Pope plans to make an unannounced visit to Iraq during his May 8-15 trip to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.
Even though Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi appears to have denied the story, Iraqi Christians have been electrified by the news.
“We highly appreciate His Holiness the Pope’s desire to visit Iraq,” said Yonadam Yousef Kanna, a Christian member of the Iraqi parliament, to the German news agency dpa on Monday.
“I do not think that the Pope will address sectarian issues in Iraq,” Kanna said. “Rather, I think the visit will focus on matters of spirituality and faith, and that he will discuss the development of services for all Iraqis.”
Zuhair Rasam, an Iraqi Christian writer from Baghdad, told dpa the pope’s visit, should it happen, would be “historic and holy, because it would be the first of its kind in the history of Iraq. It would be a visit of love and tolerance.”
“All Iraqis look forward to the visit,” he said. “We are all one family living on this Earth.”
According to a report by EarthTimes, however, Fr. Lombardi told reporters during a recent press briefing that the reports “don’t appear serious.”
He added: “I don’t expect improvised (changes of plan), the schedule has already been defined.”
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