VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis told the people of Iraq he was going to their country as a “penitential pilgrim,” asking God’s forgiveness for years of war, persecution and destruction, and as a “pilgrim of peace,” hoping to remind people that they are all brothers and sisters no matter their ethnic or religious identity.

“I will finally be among you,” he said in a video message, released by the Vatican March 4, the day before the trip was to begin. “I come as a pilgrim, as a penitential pilgrim to implore forgiveness and reconciliation from the Lord after years of war and terrorism, to ask God for consolation for hearts and healing for wounds,” the pope said. “And I come among you as a pilgrim of peace, to repeat: ‘You are all brothers and sisters.’”

During his March 5-8 pilgrimage, the Pope met with government officials and representatives of Muslim, Christian, Yazidi, Mandaean and other religious communities. He visited the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham, as well as the ruins of four churches destroyed by Islamic State fighters. He spread a message of peace and unity while
visiting places of faith and suffering, bowing in tribute to the innocents who died and embracing survivors.

Below is a slideshow of photos from the historic trip.