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Iraq marks Pope’s visit by releasing stamps

Iraq issued commemorative stamps marking the first papal visit to the country.

On March 5, Pope Francis began a three-day visit to Iraq, where he met senior government officials as well as community leaders from different religions and held prayers and Masses.

One of the stamps announced on Monday by the Iraqi Ministry of Communication, which runs the postal service, shows the smiling Pope raising his right hand, with a map of Iraq in the background, the National News reported.

Another stamp marks his meeting with Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shia leader who wields considerable influence in Iraq and beyond. Two white doves, a shrine and Saint Peter’s Basilica are featured as a symbol of coexistence.

Other stamps commemorate his stops at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, the scene of an attack by Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2010 that killed at least 58 people during a Sunday Mass, and the ancient city of Ur, where he held a historic inter-religious meeting.

Only 5,000 stamps will be published, to be used locally and internationally.

Iraq’s postal service is government-owned. The service is not used widely among Iraqis, especially after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Most people prefer methods such as private couriers.

During his visit, the 84-year-old pontiff described himself as a “pilgrim of peace” and called on Iraqis to ensure they had “one prayer, one mind, one hope to achieve unity and peace”. He also called for an end to violence in Iraq.

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