Pope Francis confirms plans to visit Iraq in March amid coronavirus concerns

Pope Francis’ doctor dies from COVID-19 ‘complications’

The Pontiff is scheduled to travel to Iraq for three days on March 5, although the dates could be altered or cancelled if Covid-19 infections in the country surge significantly. Iraqis will be able to watch televised addresses from the Pope as social distancing restrictions will prevent in-person appearances.

The trip comes after St John Paul II was forced to cancel his plans to visit the country due to rising tensions in 2000.

Pope Francis said St John Paul “wept” that he was unable to carry out the visit, and explained he would not like to let people down again.

During his meeting with members of the the Catholic News Service on Monday, the Pontiff also highlighted the role of US Catholic journalists int he current national climate.

He said their role was to foster unity and “try to get people to talk to each other, reason together and seek the path of fraternity.”

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He added: “A divided church is not the church.

“The church in the United States is a church that has been courageous — the history it has and the saints — and has done so much.

“But if the communications media throw gas on the fire on one side or another, it doesn’t help.”

The Pontiff warned against becoming divided and promoted the importance of peaceful dialogue.

He said: “The path of division leads nowhere. Remember the prayer of Jesus, ‘That they may all be one’ — unity that is not uniformity, no. Unity with differences, but one heart. ‘I think this way, you think that. We can discuss it,’ but with the same heart.”

“There are perhaps traditionalist groups in the United States, but there are here in the Vatican, too.”

The discussion comes after the Pope was warned he should scale back on eating pasta and pizza if he wants to avoid surgery for his sciatica.

The Argentine pontiff was also advised to lose at least 1st 4lbs in order to reduce the chances of undergoing a surgical procedure.

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Regarding the medical advice, sources in Rome told the Sun: “If he sticks to the doctors’ advice he’ll be fine but he’s well known for his healthy appetite.”

The Pope was forced to postpone a series of events at the Vatican last weekend due to his sciatica issues.

On Friday was unable to stand during a meeting with members of the Roman Rota.

Addressing his audience, Pope Francis said: “I would like to speak to you standing up but sciatica is a troublesome guest.

“So I apologise and will speak sitting down.”

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