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Pope Francis visits areas ransacked by ISIS in first ever trip to Iraq

Baghdad — Pope Francis on Sunday marked the final day of his historic pilgrimage to Iraq. The pope spoke at Mosul, once the stronghold of the ISIS caliphate, condemning ISIS terrorism while calling for forgiveness.

It was always against the odds: Pope Francis, defying extreme security risks to come to a country as dangerous as Iraq.

But Sunday marked the climax of the first-ever papal visit, with the pontiff setting foot in Mosul, a city once ransacked and ruled by ISIS, and while liberated now, is still war-torn.

“Hope is more powerful than hatred,” said the pontiff, inside what’s left of a church.

Then, off to Qaraqosh, a Christian town nearly annihilated by ISIS.

Pope Francis Makes Historic Visit To Iraq

Pope Francis conducts mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium on March 7, 2021 in Erbil, Iraq.   CHRIS MCGRATH / GETTY IMAGES

The Church of the Immaculate Conception was vandalized, desecrated, burned and even used as target practice by ISIS, who threatened to one day come to Rome. Now, it’s Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome, who has come to the church instead.

“I think that this is the message: The goal of the Holy Father to encourage people to stay here,” said Father George.

And finally, the capstone of his visit: Celebrating Mass in the stadium of Erbil, before thousands, many who escaped from ISIS, like one 24-year-old woman attending.

“We feel safe now,” she said.

But she doesn’t think she’ll ever feel safe moving back home to Mosul, where religious wounds run deep.

Pope Francis Makes Historic Visit To Iraq

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives to conduct mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium on March 7, 2021, in Erbil, Iraq.   CHRIS MCGRATH / GETTY IMAGES

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