Iraqi Cleric Expects the Pope to Meet With Saddam
REUTERS, Oct. 6—Iraq's leading Christian cleric said he believes Pope John Paul II remains committed to a millennium pilgrimage to Iraq and that he expects the Pope to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the wire service reported.
Vatican sources said earlier that the visit, which has not yet been officially announced, had hit “diplomatic problems.”
“Up until now, we were assured His Holiness would come to Iraq. There is no change to his agenda or program,” said Raphael Bidawid, the Chaldean church's patriarch of Babylon, on a recent visit to London.
Bidawid told the Royal Institute for International Affairs the Pope would travel to Ur, birthplace of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham and revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Afterward he declined to respond to questions over whether the trip was in jeopardy, but an aide who had traveled with him on a two-week tour of the United States and Britain said Bidawid had not heard of any discord with the Vatican, reported Reuters.
Bidawid insisted the visit had no political overtones, but that the Pope was a head of state as well as a religious leader and protocol dictated he should see the Iraqi leader.