BAGHDAD (AP) — Pope Francis has urged Iraqis to treat their Christian brothers as a precious resource to protect, not an “obstacle” to eliminate as he opens the first-ever papal visit to Iraq.

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The pontiff has brushed aside coronavirus and security worries to make the visit in a show of support for Iraq's beleaguered Christians.

At a church where Christians suffered one of their worse massacres by militants a decade ago, Francis recognized the community's traumas but urged them to stay in Iraq to ensure the community endures.

Iraqi President Barham Salih has echoed his call for tolerance, saying “The East cannot be imagined without Christians.”

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