Fr. Habeb said the statue “will return to Karemlesh and will be in our church upon our return.”
Pope Francis made his comments about travel during an in-flight press conference on the flight back from a historic three-day visit to Iraq, where he met with political authorities, religious leaders, and Christian communities.
The Christian population in Iraq has been steadily dwindling for decades, from around 1.4 million in 2003 to around 250,000 Christians in the country.
Describing the religious leader as someone with wisdom and prudence, Pope Francis commented that wise people are everywhere, because “God’s wisdom has been spread all over the world.”
A statement afterward from al-Sistani’s office said that the cleric affirmed that the country’s Christian citizens should, like all Iraqis, be able to live in security and peace, freely exercising their constitutional rights.