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Vatican's Iraq envoy tests positive for COVID but says Pope's trip is on

February 28, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople (L) and Pope Francis (R) wear protective masks as they attend an international Prayer for Peace initiative entitled “No One Is Saved Alone – Peace and Fraternity” at the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy, on October 20, 2020 [Riccardo De Luca / Anadolu Agency]

The Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the point man for Pope Francis’ trip to the country next week, has tested positive for COVID-19 but the visit will go ahead, he said on Saturday, reported Reuters.

Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, who has been the key person planning the March 5-8 trip, told Reuters that he as well as several other staff at the nunciature (embassy) were in self-isolation.

“This is not going to influence the pope’s program, which is going on as planned,” Leskovar said.

Pope Francis is due to start a four-day trip to Iraq on Friday to show solidarity with the Christian community that has been decimated by wars and Daesh terrorists.

A trip to Iraq, a first by a pope, had eluded Francis’ two immediate predecessors, Pope John Paul II and former Pope Benedict, who were not able to go for security reasons.

Read: Vatican delegation in Iraq ahead of Pope’s official visit

Leskovar, who is Slovenian and whose title is Apostolic Nuncio, said he had been experiencing only light symptoms so far.

Since the trip was first announced in December, the Vatican said it would take place if the coronavirus situation in Iraq permitted.

Iraq has seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and authorities have banned travel between provinces.