Pope Francis Iraq trip marked with celebratory postage stamps, including of Sistani meeting

Pope Francis Iraq trip marked with celebratory postage stamps, including of Sistani meeting
Designs reportedly include the Pope's encounter with leading Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani while he was in Iraq.
2 min read
21 September, 2021
Pope Francis met Ayatollah Sistani while in Iraq this March [Getty]

The Pope's momentous Iraq trip earlier this year has prompted the creation of a series of postage stamps to celebrate the historic visit.

The trip was the first made by any head of the Catholic Church to Iraq and saw Pope Francis spend three days in the country, where he met with top-level politicians and faith figures.

Iraq's communication ministry revealed the stamps on Monday, with designs including the Pope's encounter with one of the world's top Shia Muslim clerics, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, The National reported.

A more generic design features the Pope imposed over a map of Iraq filled in with the national flag. A dove is placed to Francis' right.

The Pope's interfaith gathering in the 6,000-year-old former Sumerian capital of Ur is also featured on a stamp, as is his visit to Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation church, the site of a 2010 Al-Qaeda massacre which claimed 58 lives.

There are to be just 5,000 of the celebratory stamps printed, and they will be valid for both domestic and global postage.

The Iraqi communication ministry is responsible for the country's post system, though people generally opt not to send their letters and packages through this route, favouring other postal methods.

On his visit, the Pope called for Iraq to respect and conserve its ancient, diverse communities and pleaded with Christians in the country to persist, despite their numbers being "small like a mustard seed".

Iraq has seen an exodus of its Christian population since the US invasion of the country in 2003.

Since the invasion, militia groups including the Islamic State group (IS) have persecuted the religious minority.

About one million Christian Iraqis have left the country since 2003, Louis Raphael Sako, the head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church told The Associated Press earlier this year.

About half a million Christians remain in Iraq, according to Sako and European Union figures from 2015.