Head of the Roman Catholic church in Estonia Mons Philippe Jourdan, has called Pope Francis recent Iraq visit historically significant not only for that country, but for the entire middle-east region.
Pope Francis was the first pontiff ever to visit Iraq, which he did from last Thursday to Monday, at a time when that country is going through a difficult period, Mons Jourdan noted.
Appearing on ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" Monday night, Mons Jourdan, originally from France but who speaks fluent Estonian, said that thie visit had: "Already been Pope John Paul II's great dream 20 years ago, to go to Iraq and also to visit Iraqi Christians. /.../ But John Paul II could not go because the situation in Iraq did not allow it and this was something of a major pain."
John Paul II's pontificate had seen conflict in the region almost throughout, starting with the Iran-Iraq War and continuing with operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox in the 1990s, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II's successor, also was unable to make the trip, for similar reasons, though this did not kill off the idead, Mons Jourdan said.
Finally with Pope Francis' trip becoming a reality, this ambition was met, even though it came with risks in terms of both the pandemic and personal security, which Mons Jourdan called his own personal biggest concern, adding that if the trip had not gone ahead: "It would have been a huge blow to the Iraqi Christians and to the entire Iraqi people."
Mons Jourdan noted that the pope, who is aged 84, had received the coronavirus vaccine.
"This is historic for the whole of the Middle East. As we know, what is significant for the Middle East translates also to the security and peace in the whole world, because if something goes wrong there, the whole world also has to live in the same bad situation," Mons Jourdan told presenter Astrid Kannel.
During his visit, Pope Francis visited Shia leader Sistani, as well as with Iraqi Christians, many of whom have had to flee due to persecution, Sunni leaders and major political leaders and others. Iraq's population is split about 50-50 between Sunni and Shia.
Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel continue to serve in Iraq as part of the ESTGUARD4 deployment and contribution to the ongoing NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) peacekeeping and security forces training initiative.
The original "Välisilm" clip (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte