Iraqi Catholics would really like the Pope to visit

Iraqi Christian refugees in Irbil with a Catholic nun.Photo: CNS/Reuters

Pope Francis can expect a warm reception from the Christians living in war-torn Iraq, the Vatican's top diplomat there says.

In an interview with the Catholic charitable organisation Aid to the Church in Need, Vatican diplomat to Iraq Archbishop Giorgio Lingua said that the Christians in Iraq would really like the Holy Father to visit.

 "The Holy Father is expected in Iraq both by the Church and the political powers, and even by non-Christians such as the Shiite leadership," Archbishop Lingua revealed. "I am impressed how great the consensus is concerning the figure of the Pope."

However, Archbishop Lingua said that there would need to be proper planning for the Papal Visit to Iraq to become a reality. There are security issues specifically that need to be addressed.

The papal envoy named two areas that are of immediate concern and could affect the future of Christianity in Iraq. These areas are Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, both of which are currently under the control of the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Christians have lived in these areas of Iraq for two thousand years and survived through the rule of Saddam Hussein.

"If the government manages to regain control there and implements a campaign of national reconciliation, then there will be a place for Christians in Iraq," Archbishop Lingua told ACN.

He remains optimistic about the government's ability to take care of security issues to make the papal visit possible. "I'm no expert in such matters. But everybody says that they would do everything to make the visit a success," the papal envoy said.

For his part, Archbishop Lingua told ACN that he would want to spend more time in organising a Papal Visit. He said that a Papal Visit should include Abraham's birthplace in Ur, the seat of government in Baghdad and the Christian refugees now living in Erbil.