As SAT-7 ARABIC broadcast live coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq and his meetings with authorities and religious figures, viewers watching shared messages of hope and gratitude on social media.

SAT-7’s Lebanon studio covered the Pope’s three-day visit on 5-8 March 2021 in five live broadcasts, sharing key moments such as mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Baghdad and his stops in Kurdistan and Mosul.

One viewer commented, “Amen. May this visit of the Pope bring blessing, good, love, and the peace of Jesus,” while a second viewer wrote, “We ask God to make this visit a step towards peace in the region and the whole world.” Another calls Pope Francis “a messenger of peace and love”.

Alongside the live coverage, Presenter Fady Bou Rached was joined by guests from multiple denominations, who explain the significance of the visit and analyse its effect on Iraq and the region. The speakers included Father Tony Khadra, President of the Catholic Union for Journalism in Lebanon; Archbishop Youssef Soueif, Maronite Archbishop of Tripoli-Lebanon, and Father Youssef Mikha from Iraq.

To discuss the Pope’s meeting with Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s Shia leader, the channel hosted Sheikh Zouheir Koussan along with Dr Martin Accad, Professor at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. One viewer responded to the guests’ discussion saying, “An excellent explanation about minorities and how to think differently about helping each other and democracy.”

The landmark visit was especially meaningful to Christians in Iraq and the wider Middle East as many feel isolated, both by political turmoil and by the spread of the coronavirus and the closure of many churches in the region. Church leaders and members in Iraq face danger, lack of resources, and displacement, with some speaking out during the visit about the lack of tolerance they experience or how they do not feel able to return since being forced to flee Iraq.

After the visit, Father Martin Banni, a Chaldean priest in Iraq, told SAT-7 it had been an emotional moment, especially when the Pope was received by Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis in Baghdad.

“His face showed expression of being moved. In Mosul, he was pained for the destruction of the city. He held mass in Irbil, the largest mass in the history of Iraq. He finished his speech with the words, ‘Peace, peace to the Iraqi people,’ and he prayed a few words in Chaldean and in Arabic,” he said.

Father Martin Banni, who himself was forcibly displaced as so-called Islamic State (IS) militants attacked Mosul, separately wrote:

“Even after [Pope Francis] left our country, the spiritual revival that he left behind fills our hearts. He indeed filled Iraq with peace, serenity, and love. The fulfillment of this event is nothing short of a miracle.”


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