Pope Francis lands in Iraq on first-ever papal visit
Pope Francis landed in Baghdad on Friday for his most risky foreign trip since his election in 2012, saying he felt duty-bound to make the "emblematic" visit because Iraq had suffered so much for so long.
An Alitalia plane carrying him, his entourage, a security detail, and about 75 journalists, touched down at Baghdad International Airport slightly ahead of schedule just before 2 p.m. local time.
Additional security personnel
Pope Francis is welcomed by Iraqi President Barham Saleh at the presidential palace in Baghdad.
Iraq is deploying thousands of additional security personnel to protect the 84-year-old pope during the visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks raised fears for his safety.
Iraqi children dressed in traditional outfits join a protocol member wearing a protective mask agaist the corona as they welcome Pope Francis at Baghdad international airport.
Francis's whirlwind tour will take him by plane, helicopter and possibly armoured car to four cities, including areas that most foreign dignitaries are unable to reach, let alone in such a short space of time.
He will say Mass at a Baghdad church, meet Iraq's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric in the southern city of Najaf and travel north to Mosul, where the army had to empty the streets for security reasons last year for a visit by Iraq's prime minister.
Mosul is a former Islamic State stronghold, and churches and other buildings there still bear the scars of conflict.