The images that flashed on TV screens seemed a far cry from the Iraq of recent decades. Western heads of state and VIPs typically show up unannounced, with their itineraries a closely guarded secret. This has been standard practice in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. Francis flew back to Rome Monday and this trip has struck an entirely different note. The visit was announced nearly three months in advance. As violence intensified and coronavirus cases increased in Iraq, so too did the Pope's resolve to carry on with the tour. It was the 84-year-old pontiff's courage which was repeatedly applauded throughout the trip, more than the words he spoke. His choice of popemobile on a potentially risky visit -- open to the crowds rather than encased in bulletproof glass -- seemed to represent the dissolving of barriers between the papacy and the country's downtrodden. To many in the region, glued to their TV sets over the last four days, it seemed that this trip straddled an old, dark chapter and something altogether new.
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