“I am coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg from God the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds … Yes, I am coming as a pilgrim of peace, seeking fraternity and prompted by the desire to pray together and to walk together, also with our brothers and sisters of other religious traditions,” Pope Francis said in a video message, published by the Holy See.

Pope also said that he would visit the Middle Eastern country as “a pilgrim of hope” to build together a future of peace.

“My dear Christian brothers and sisters, who have testified to your faith in Christ amid harsh sufferings: I cannot wait to see you. I am honoured to encounter a Church of martyrs: thank you for your witness!” the pontiff added.

The Papal trip to Iraq is scheduled for 5-8 March and includes visits to Baghdad, Najaf, Ur — which is famous as the birthplace of Abraham — and other cities.