AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq

AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq
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Pope Francis greeted by Iraq prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq. (@IraqiPMO)
Pope Francis and the Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq. (@IraqiPMO)
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Pope Francis and the Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq. (@IraqiPMO)
Pope Francis during an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, where he met with President Salih. (AFP)
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Pope Francis during an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, where he met with President Salih. (AFP)
Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
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Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
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Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
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Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
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Pope Francis is in Iraq on Friday for the start of a historic trip to the war-battered country, defying security fears and the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq
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Heavy security has been implemented in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad for Pope Francis’s first visit to the country. (AFP)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq
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Christian families gather outside St. George Chaldean Church as they wait for the arrival of Pope Francis in Baghdad on March 5, 2021. (Reuters)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq
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Iraqi Christians gather at the Church of the Virgin Mary before going to the airport to welcome Pope Francis in Baghdad on Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq
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Iraqi Christians prepare posters welcoming Pope Francis to St. Joseph’s Chaldean Church in Baghdad on March 2, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 05 March 2021

AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis arrives in Iraq

Pope Francis greeted by Iraq prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq. (@IraqiPMO)
  • Holy Father’s first public event will be with authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps

DUBAI: Pope Francis called for an end to extremism and violence in his opening address Friday on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, long scarred by war and now gripped by coronavirus.

The 84-year-old pontiff, who said he was making the first-ever papal visit to Iraq as a ‘pilgrim of peace,’ will also reach out to Shiite Muslims when he meets Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.

The Pope landed in the afternoon at Baghdad's International Airport, where he was greeted by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, as well as groups showcasing Iraq's diverse folklore music and dance.

He then met with President Barham Saleh, who had extended the official invitation to the pontiff in 2019, as well as other government and religious figures.

“May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance!” he urged in the stirring address, his first after arriving in the country.

Follow live coverage of his first day itinerary below... (All times GMT)

16:30 - WATCH: Before the 2003 US invasion, there were an estimated 1 million Christians living in Iraq, but now their numbers are believed to be in the low thousands or even the hundreds. 

Rev. Nadhir Dako of Baghdad’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which the Pope will visit during his trip, explains in the video below why so many Christians continue to leave.

 

15:00 - That concludes the public engagement of the Pope on the first day of his trip.

On Saturday, Pope Francis will travel by plane to the cities of Najaf and Ur, where he will meet Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.

READ MORE

Go to Arab News' dedicated In Focus section on the Pope's visit to Iraq for coverage of the historic trip. Click here.

 

14:15 - During his flight from Rome to Baghdad, the Pope sent telegrams while flying over Palestine, Israel, and finally Jordan, to each of the respective heads of state.

Overflight Palestine

HIS EXCELLENCY MAHMOUD ABBAS - PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE

AS I FLY OVER PALESTINIAN TERRITORY ON MY APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO IRAQ, I EXTEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS, AND I PRAY THAT THE MOST HIGH GOD WILL BLESS ALL PALESTINIANS WITH PEACE AND WELL-BEING. FRANCISCUS PP.

Overflight Israel

HIS EXCELLENCY REUVEN RIVLIN - PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL

ENTERING ISRAELI AIRSPACE ON MY APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO IRAQ, I SEND WARM GREETINGS TO YOU AND THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION, PRAYING THAT ALMIGHTY GOD WILL BLESS ALL WITH HIS GIFTS OF HARMONY AND PEACE. FRANCISCUS PP.

Overflight Jordan

HIS MAJESTY ABDULLAH II - KING OF JORDAN

I OFFER CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR MAJESTY, THE MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE PEOPLE OF JORDAN AS I FLY OVER JORDANIAN AIRSPACE ON MY APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO IRAQ. UPON THE ENTIRE NATION, I INVOKE THE ABUNDANT BLESSINGS OF THE MOST HIGH. FRANCISCUS PP. 

14:00 - Next, Pope Francis visits Our Lady of Salvation Syro-Catholic Cathedral in Bagdhad, where he will meet with worshippers, bishops & religious figures. Video below.

13:45 - WATCH - ICYMI: Pope Francis and the Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are greeted by traditional dancing shortly after the pontiff's arrival in Iraq.

 

13:30 - Pope Francis' address at the Presidential Palace touches upon the need for Iraq's internal differences to be resolved and how its institutions fighting corruption must be strengthened.

13:00 - After a brief discussion, and exchange of symbolic gifts and a look at some of the artifacts of the Presidential Palace, Pope Francis and Salih now hold a short briefing.

12:15 - President Barham Salih greets the Holy Father and, as a symbol of peace, doves are released into the Baghdad sky...

12:00 - Next on the Pope's agenda is an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, where he will meet with President Salih in the private office of the palace.

11:30 - Following a brief discussion with the Iraq prime minister, the Pope will head to the Presidential Palace for a reception with President Salih. On leaving the airport, the Pope was treated to traditional Iraqi dance.

11:15 - Pope Francis and Al-Kadhimi now head into a VIP hall within the airport for an official reception and welcome.

11:00 - The Pope touches down at Baghdad International Airport, where he will receive an official welcome and meet with Iraqi prime minister Al-Kadhimi.

09:45 - Here is what to expect during his four days of stay in Iraq:

Day 1: Baghdad

Upon arrival in Iraq, Pope Francis will meet privately with Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

Then, following an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Pope Francis will visit President Barham Salih. The Holy Father’s first public event will be with authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps at 3:45 p.m. in the Presidential Palace.

Afterwards, he will travel to the Syriac-Catholic Cathedral of “Our Lady of Salvation” and meet with Bishops, priests, religious persons, seminarians and catechists.

READ: Massive security preparations in Iraq to protect Pope Francis during his four-day visit

Day 2: Najaf, Ur, Baghdad

On Saturday, Pope Francis will travel by plane to the cities of Najaf and Ur, before returning to Baghdad.

The Pope’s first event of the day is a courtesy visit in Najaf to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.

He will then depart for Nasiriya to lead an interreligious meeting at the Plain of Ur.

The Pope will then return to Baghdad, where he will celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph.

WATCH: Preparations for Pope Francis’s Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph, video below

READ: Pope Francis’ visit to give hope and comfort to Iraqis of all faiths

Day 3: Irbil, Mosul, Qaraqosh

On Sunday, his third day in Iraq, Pope Francis will travel to Irbil, Mosul and Qaraqosh.

He is due to be welcomed upon his arrival in Irbil by the President of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and the civil authorities of the region.

He will then meet with Nechirvan Barzani and Masrour Barzani, respectively President and Prime Minister of the autonomous region, privately, before departing by helicopter for Mosul.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

In Mosul, Pope Francis will lead a prayer of suffrage for war victims at Hosh Al-Bieaa.

He will then travel to Qaraqosh where he will visit the faithful at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Afterwards, he will return to Irbil where he will celebrate Holy Mass at the ‘Franso Hariri’ stadium. The Pope will then travel back to Baghdad after the Holy Mass.

WATCH: Iraqi Christians in California watch Pope Francis’s visit from afar, video below

READ: Papal visit brings joy and sadness for Iraq’s dwindling Christian community

Day 4: Baghdad, Rome

Pope Francis will depart from Baghdad International Airport following a brief farewell ceremony. He is expected to arrive at Rome’s Ciampino Airport at late evening.


Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started -data

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started -data
Updated 20 April 2021

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started -data

Turkey logs highest daily COVID-19 deaths since pandemic started -data
  • Turkey registered its highest daily toll of 346 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday
  • Total cases stood at 4,384,624 while the total death toll rose to 36,613

ISTANBUL: Turkey recorded 346 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, registering the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.
The data also showed the country recorded 61,028 new coronavirus cases in the same period.
The total number of cases stood at 4,384,624 while the total death toll rose to 36,613, according to the data.
Turkey currently ranks fourth globally in the number of daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.


Defiant Lebanese judge referred to Judicial Inspection Authority

Defiant Lebanese judge referred to Judicial Inspection Authority
Ghada Aoun. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 20 April 2021

Defiant Lebanese judge referred to Judicial Inspection Authority

Defiant Lebanese judge referred to Judicial Inspection Authority
  • Ghada Aoun has six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge who defied a decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches was Tuesday referred to the Judicial Inspection Authority over her actions.

Judge Ghada Aoun had been investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing US dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month, defying a decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her from the case. There have been six criminal cases and 28 complaints filed against Aoun.

Lebanon’s Supreme Judicial Council met the judge on Tuesday, deciding to refer her to the authority and asking it to take the necessary measures.

“Any investigation or judicial case will be followed up to the end by the competent judiciary whoever the judge may be and regardless of any considerations outside of the judicial framework,” the council said, emphasizing that judicial authority was exercised by all judges. “It is their responsibility to preserve and protect it, abide by their oath and not mix between their duty and issues that do not come in line with the nature of proper judicial work.”

Aoun’s actions gained political traction when she was accompanied on one of the raids by supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the political party led by MP Gebran Bassil.   

A number of FPM supporters accompanied Aoun on Tuesday to the vicinity of the Justice Palace in Beirut.

They waited for her on the street while she attended the council session, which lasted for 40 minutes and took place amid strict security measures taken by the army and Internal Security Forces.

On Monday, rival protests had to be broken up after fighting erupted between those who supported her and those who did not.

The conflict between Aoun and Oweidat temporarily diverted attention away from the months-long political deadlock that has stopped a new government from being formed.

But the involvement of FPM supporters has angered some, who said the judge was being used as a tool to settle political scores.

The council downplayed the idea that there was a dispute, judicial or political.

“What happened is not a dispute between those who want to fight corruption and hold the corrupt accountable, and those who do not want to and are preventing it, or a conflict between the prosecutor general and the region public prosecutor. It definitely is not a political dispute between two parties, as some are portraying it.”

The council said it had asked the Court of Cassation’s Public Prosecutor and the head of the Judicial Inspection Authority to take the necessary measures, each within his jurisdiction, regarding her actions, to listen to her before the council due to her “violation of the obligation to exercise reserve, recurrent failure to meet the commitments she expressed before the council, and refusal to come to the Cassation Public Prosecution.”

Its statement also referred to Aoun’s “positions and actions” following Oweidat’s decision, in which he amended the distribution of work at Mount Lebanon Public Prosecution.

The council’s term ends in June and it tried, through the position it adopted on Tuesday, to save face due to the judiciary’s image suffering in the past few days.

 


Gaza Strip’s Karmousa Kitchen offers Ramadan delicacies

Gaza Strip’s Karmousa Kitchen offers Ramadan delicacies
Women shared the work among themselves, with each group undertaking a specific task that they must finish in the shortest period of time. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Gaza Strip’s Karmousa Kitchen offers Ramadan delicacies

Gaza Strip’s Karmousa Kitchen offers Ramadan delicacies
  • Karmousa, named after an Algerian delicacy, relies on social media platforms to promote and market its products

GAZA: Warda Erbee and other women are busy preparing Ramadan foods and sweets in a Gaza Strip kitchen.

Erbee and her colleagues work in Karmousa Kitchen, from the Baraem Development Association, for about seven hours a day to cater for the increased demand during the fasting month.

Erbee, who joined the team in 2017, became the main breadwinner for her family after her husband lost his job due to the pandemic.

She works every day, from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“We work throughout the year at a normal pace, but work increases significantly in the blessed month of Ramadan as the demand is greater for items related to this month, specifically the kubba and sambousak,” she said.

The kitchen’s stand-out offering the rest of the year is the maftool, which is made from wheat or white flour and has earned the satisfaction and admiration of customers.

Karmousa, named after an Algerian delicacy, relies on social media platforms to promote and market its products.

The goal of the Baraem Development Association when launching this project was to help marginalized women cope with poor living conditions.

Kitchen manager Khetam Arafat said that while work did not stop throughout the year, its production doubled during Ramadan and provided additional job opportunities for poor women.

Women shared the work among themselves, with each group undertaking a specific task that they must finish in the shortest period of time.

They need to maintain high levels of accuracy and quality to meet the demands of customers, maintain the position of their products in the market and compete with other factories and kitchens.

According to Arafat, the kitchen’s most famous products are the vegetable and cheese-stuffed sambousak and the Syrian kibbeh made of bulgur and stuffed with minced meat.

“Preparing for Ramadan begins days before in order to meet the demands received by the kitchen and to produce large quantities of items that are in high demand and consumption during this month.”

Despite the emergency conditions resulting from the pandemic, Arafat believed that the demand for Ramadan appetizers and sweets was in line with the annual average.

“Because of an increase in demand this year, the number of female workers has doubled from five to 10, and the number depends on the quality and quantity of the orders.”

From the middle of Ramadan until its end, work in Karmousa is focused on making cakes and maamoul, which are sweets associated with Eid Al-Fitr.

But Arafat feared that an increase in COVID-19 infections in Gaza may lead to a comprehensive closure and inflict heavy losses on the kitchen and all economic sectors.

 


Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports
Updated 20 April 2021

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports

Egypt, Russia in talks over Sputnik V vaccine imports
  • The two-dose Sputnik V vaccine has obtained approval from the Egyptian Drug Authority – both doses are designed to be administered within a 21-day period
  • Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko said that Russia is keen to accelerate the delivery of Sputnik V doses to Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt is negotiating with manufacturers of the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine in a bid to buy enough doses for Egypt’s entire population, Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, advisor to the president on health affairs, has said.

The move emerged during a meeting headed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Tuesday to discuss ways to control the pandemic. The meeting heard that coordination is taking place regarding the supply of monthly doses.

Egypt’s Health Minister Hala Zayed said that the ministry is working on increasing the daily capacity of vaccine centers so that Egypt can inoculate more than 112,000 people per day, adding that there are adequate reserves of medical oxygen in the country.

Negotiations have also taken place with oxygen manufacturers to increase the amount available in Egyptian hospitals and health centers, and to redirect industrial oxygen to the medical sector. Medical gas networks have been upgraded for 40 hospitals affiliated with the ministry.

Zayed also discussed the possibility of manufacturing the Sputnik V vaccine in Egypt in a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko.

Khaled Megahed, health ministry spokesperson, said that the meeting also involved talks on investment opportunities and a potential strategy of using Egypt as a vaccine manufacturing base for all of Africa.

Megahed said that the ministry “endeavors to provide vaccines and prioritize the health of citizens and workers in Egypt.”

The two-dose Sputnik V vaccine has obtained approval from the Egyptian Drug Authority. Both doses are designed to be administered within a 21-day period.

Borisenko said that Russia is keen to accelerate the delivery of Sputnik V doses to Egypt. He added that Russia has given its “full support and cooperation” to Egypt in fighting the pandemic.


Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
Updated 20 April 2021

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
  • During Mostafa Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya
  • Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, accompanied by a team of ministers, visited Tripoli on Tuesday to discuss economic and political cooperation with the Libyan Government of National Unity.

It followed instructions from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is planning a visit to Libya.

During Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya to strengthen its energy networks.

Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries.

Egyptian companies are awaiting government decisions regarding participation in the reconstruction of Libya, which they hope will produce new opportunities in a renewed market.

According to local sources, Madbouly’s visit is focussed on investments in the country, Egyptian labor issues and the reopening of diplomatic missions.

Last month, El-Sisi discussed with the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Menfi, prospects for enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

El-Sisi stressed Egypt’s full and absolute support for the new executive authority in Libya in all fields and for its success in holding general elections at the end of the year.

He said Egypt was fully prepared to provide its expertise to the Libyan government to help restore its national institutions, especially security and police forces, to achieve greater stability.

Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, Egypt has promoted political settlement by hosting the warring factions in key meetings.