Pope Francis is expected to pay his first visit to Iraq on Friday. Pope Francis sent a message of peace and hope to the Iraqi people on Wednesday. Pope Francis told the audience during a weekly talk at the Vatican: “Tomorrow I will go to Iraq for a three-day visit because I have long wanted to meet with all those who have suffered so much.” The apostolic visit will include a number of firsts: the first pope to visit the birthplace of Abraham, the first pope to celebrate Mass in the Chaldean rite and the first papal trip since the beginning of a global pandemic that is very much still ravaging the world. No one knows how many Iraqi Christians will flock to witness the historic visit of Pope Francis to Iraq, for the simple reason that no one knows exactly how many of the faithful remain in a country that can trace its Christian roots back to the earliest days of the faith. The pope’s visit comes despite an attack on the al-Assad airport in Iraq’s western desert. Pope Francis will spend most of his time in Baghdad and Erbil. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Pope Francis could travel in an armoured vehicle but would not meet the crowd at Erbil Stadium, where 10,000 people are expected to gather. Pope Francis has long campaigned for interfaith, peace and tolerance, and two years ago he met with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Imam of Abu Dhabi, in which the two religious leaders called for world peace for the human community. They also signed a joint document and made a joint appeal for freedom of belief.