Vatican defends pope’s Iraq trip amid virus as ‘act of love’

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is defending Pope Francis’ decision to go ahead with his trip to Iraq this weekend despite rising coronavirus infections there, saying all health care precautions have been taken and that the trip is an “act of love for this land, for its people, and for its Christians.” Francis is due to visit Iraq Friday-Monday in his first foreign trip since the pandemic erupted last year. Planning for the trip went into high gear after infections fell, but cases have spiked in the past month and infectious disease experts say a papal trip to a country with a fragile health care system simply is not a good idea.