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Iraqi’s gather at a church in Baghdad in anticipation of Pope Francis’ arrival

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Dozens of Christians gathered at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Baghdad hours before Pope Francis was due to land in Iraq for a first papal visit to the war-weary country.

Men, women and children gathered inside the church early in the morning. Many were not wearing masks and sat close to each other. One man tapped his feet impatiently, as they waited to be shuttled to the airport in buses.

Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome the Pope in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)
Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome the Pope in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)

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The papal visit has raised alarm among public health experts, who fear large crowds will inevitably gather to see the pope.

Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome the Pope in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)
Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome the Pope in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)

Iraq is confronting a worsening coronavirus outbreak driven by a more infectious strain that first appeared in the UK.

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