Pope Francis holds first public mass of Iraq trip in Baghdad's St. Joseph church

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Pope Francis began delivering Saturday in Baghdad the first public mass of his Iraq trip to a spare gathering of faithful and officials due to coronavirus restrictions, AFP reporters said.

With this papal mass in the church of St. Joseph in central Baghdad, the 84-year-old pontiff is presiding over his first-ever liturgy in the Eastern rite.

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Hours earlier in Najaf, Francis met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a visit that was a powerful signal for coexistence in a country torn by violence.

Sistani is one of the most important figures in Shia Islam, both within Iraq and beyond.

The Catholic leader has visited predominantly Muslim countries including Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian territories, using those trips to call for inter-religious dialog.

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