The Eastern-rite Catholic leader was quoted today in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, a week after he held private talks with the Holy Father. "We are waiting for the appropriate conditions" to allow a papal visit, he said. He said that an invitation for such a visit had been issued more than a year ago by the Church in Iraq, with the approval of the country's government. The Pope indicated a desire to make such a visit, he said.
The Patriarch emphasized that the invitation, and the Pope's response, were not designed to have any impact on the current crisis; in fact the invitation came long before the latest developments. Rather, the Pope wishes to make a pilgrimage to the original home of Abraham.
There are roughly 600,000 Catholics in Iraq, amidst an overall population of 20 million.