Iraqis prepare to welcome Pope to Baghdad

Iraqis prepare to welcome Pope to Baghdad
Pope Francis gives a blessing as he prepares to fly to Baghdad from Fiumicino’s International airport Leonardo da Vinci, near Rome (Cecilia Fabiano/ LaPresse/AP)

Dozens of Christians were arriving at a church in Baghdad hours before Pope Francis was due to land in Iraq for a first papal visit to the country.

Men, women and children gathered inside the Church of the Virgin Mary early on Friday morning.

Many were not wearing masks and sat close to each other.

Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome Pope Francis to Baghdad (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

One man tapped his feet impatiently, as they waited to be shuttled to the airport in buses to welcome the head of the Catholic Church.

The papal visit has raised alarm among public health experts, who fear large crowds will inevitably gather to see the pontiff.

Iraq is confronting a worsening coronavirus outbreak driven by a more infectious strain that first appeared in the UK.

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