"The long presence of Christians in this land, and their contributions to the life of the nation, constitute a rich heritage," Pope Francis added.
On Sunday, the Pope will offer a Mass for 10,000 people in a stadium in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. The rest of his appearances will be behind closed doors and with a reduced number of participants.
His visit takes place while the country is confined and under extreme health measures. "I'll try to follow directions and not shake hands with everyone, but I don't want to stay too far," Francis said.
Iraq, long scarred by war, is now facing the second wave of COVID-19 infections, with over 5,000 new cases and dozens of deaths per day.