Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there.
Francis made the improvised remark in an address to members of a group of charities that help Christians in the Middle East and other areas, Reuters reports.
“A constant thought accompanies me when I think of Iraq,” he said in prepared remarks, then adding: “Where I have the will to go next year.”
Wars and conflicts have led to an exodus of Christians in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East.
Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered particular hardships when Islamic State controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out.
Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.