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Thousands defying COVID-19 rules join Pope Francis for Erbil Mass

Thousands of people, many not wearing face masks and defying social distancing rules, packed a stadium in Erbil to see Pope Francis deliver mass on Sunday evening (March 7).

At least 10,000 people filed into the stadium for Mass, waving Iraqi, Kurdish and Vatican City flags to blaring music.

The stadium has a capacity of 30,000 people but organizers limited attendance to 10,000 as a protective measure to curb the spread of coronavirus.


Volunteers also checked the temperatures of those entering the stadium as they disembarked from buses, but once inside many of the attendees could be seen not wearing protective face masks.

Hundreds of people rushed towards Pope Francis when he appeared on the stadium in his popemobile.

It is the first time Pope Francis has been seen in the popemobile during his Iraq visit.

The Mass was the pope’s final engagement on his whirlwind four-day visit to Iraq aimed at boosting the morale of the country’s small Christian communities and urging peaceful coexistence between religions.

Iraq’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has been particularly devastated by the country’s years of conflict, falling to about 300,000 from about 1.5 million before the U.S. invasion of 2003 and the brutal Islamist militant violence that followed.

(Production: Antonio Denti, Eleanor Biles)


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