Pope to visit Ur, says senior provincial official

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By Basem al-Rikabi

Azzaman, November 30, 2012

The southern Province of Dhiqar, where the Biblical city of Ur lies, says it has received “assurances” that Pope Benedict XVI will pay homage to the ancient city.

“The Province has received assurances that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Ur and the house of the Prophet of God Abraham,” said the head of the provincial council, Qusai al-Ibadi.

According to the Bible, Abraham was living in Ur before leaving for Palestine.

Ibadi said the government in Baghdad has sent a letter to Dhiqar’s provincial council confirming that the papal visit will go ahead.

Ibadi did not say when the Pope would visit and whether the Vatican had confirmed that he would be touring Ur.

But he added: “The province has received a request from the federal government via the minister of state for provincial affairs to start preparations for the expected visit.”

He also said the Vatican was coordinating with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities for arrangements that are necessary to facilitate the papal visit.

Ibadi said the province has allocated millions of dollars “to complete the preparations for the pilgrimage” and turn Ur into a tourist attraction for Christians across the world.

Ur is one of Iraq’s most fascinating ancient relics. The city was the seat of Sumerian civilization which flourished in southern Iraq nearly 5000 years ago.

The Sumerians are accredited to have invented writing and set up the first system of civil government in their city states.