“Whole world stood in silence”, Missionary Cleric in Uganda on Pope Francis’ Visit to Iraq

The official logo of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq.

Pope Francis’ recent visit to Iraq brought the world to a standstill, for Christians and non-Christians alike, a missionary Cleric ministering in Uganda has said.

In a reflection shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, March 10, Fr. Lazar Arasu recounts the Holy Father’s tour to the country that has been riddled with protracted conflict, a move he says ignited hope in those that are in need for consolation.

“The Papal visit embraced not only the Catholics, but all people of goodwill and all those who are in need of peace and consolation,” Fr. Arasu says in his reflection.

He adds in reference to the Holy Father’s famed “Prayer of the Sons and Daughters of Abraham” in Iraq, “Pope Francis in his thoughtful words touched not only the people of Iraq and the Christian community who are the first listeners, but the whole world stood in silence listening and witnessing his message of peace and brotherhood and sisterhood.”

The member of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) further says that the Papal visit to Iraq, the first ever in history, “brought together in brotherhood the Muslims, Jews, Christians and the other religious minority groups.”


In his reflection dubbed, “Papal Visit to Iraq comforting the wounded”, Fr. Arasu who ministers among refugees in Uganda says that the visit indicated that peace is possible in Iraq only through interfaith dialogue and “finding a common ground to work together.”

“Pope’s messages of interfaith dialogue and tolerance were lauded by Iraqis of all faiths and across the political spectrum,” the Indian-born Cleric said, and added in reference to the Holy Father, “His visit on 6th March 2021 to the Shia Islamic Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the shrine city of Najaf, in particular, was seen as a triumph that could help stabilize the country.”

He recalled that in the recent decades Iraq has been infamously known for violence, political turmoil, and as “a place of religious fanaticism leading to nonsensical conflicts and viciousness.”

“Given this precarious situation, no leader of international repute will think of making a visit, much less for celebration with the wounded people,” Fr Arasu says, recalling further that “Pope John Paul II had wanted to make a pastoral visit to the country in 2000 for Millennium Jubilee, but due to the well-known reasons of insecurity it was cancelled.”

“Now Pope Francis becomes the first Catholic Pontiff to visit Iraq,” he said of the Holy Father’s visit from March 5 to 8.

More in Africa

He quotes the Iraqi President Barham Salih who said, “This visit is a message of peace to Iraqis of all religions, and serve to affirm the common values of justice and dignity that Iraq stands for.”

According to Fr. Arasu, Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq has been fruitful in realizing “victory of human spirit over evil, violence, intolerance, fanaticism and religious bigotry.”

During the Pope’s trip, the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, he toured four cities, including Mosul, the former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stronghold where vast areas still lie in ruins.

In his addresses, he delivered messages of peaceful coexistence and safety for all.

Fr. Arasu further reflects, “The Pontiff saw the ruins of homes and churches in a square that was the old town’s thriving centre before Mosul was occupied by ISIL from 2014 to 2017, its fighters ravaging northern Iraq, killing Christians as well as Muslims who opposed them.”


“He (Pope Francis) sat surrounded by skeletons of buildings, dangling concrete staircases, and cratered ancient churches, most too dangerous to enter,” says Fr. Arasu in his reflection shared with ACI Africa.

It is the hope of the Indian-born SDB member who is ministering among refugees in Uganda, most of them fleeing conflict in South Sudan, to see the Holy Father visit the troubled African country.

“Now the Holy Father dreams of visiting Lebanon soon on a similar mission,” Fr. Arasu says, and adds, “Let us also pray that he will be able to visit South Sudan and bring to our African brothers and sisters the peace they long for.”

In a past engagement with South Sudanese leaders Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar, Pope Francis spoke about his “desire and hope” to visit South Sudan and urged the African leaders that peace is possible in their country through the power of Christ’s resurrection.