Pope Francis sends greetings to Rivlin while over Israel en route to Iraq

The Pope's flight was permitted to pass through Israeli airspace to reach its destination in Iraq.

Pope Francis arrives to board a plane for his visit to Iraq at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, March 5, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/REMO CASILLI)
Pope Francis arrives to board a plane for his visit to Iraq at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, March 5, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/REMO CASILLI)
Pope Francis sent a message to President Reuven Rivlin as he crossed over Israel en route to Baghdad from Rome on his four-day historic visit to the country - the first visit by a pontiff to Iraq.
The Pope's flight was permitted to pass through Israeli airspace to reach its destination in Iraq.
Air traffic control stations in northern Israel relayed the message recorded by Francis intended for Rivlin.
“To His Excellency Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel. Entering Israeli airspace on my Apostolic journey to Iraq, I send warm greetings to you and the people of the nation," said the Pope. "Praying that almighty God will bless you all with His gift of harmony and peace. Franciscus Papa.”
The air traffic controllers thanked the Alitalia pilot for relaying the dispatch, and promised to convey the message to the president.
Rivlin's office notes that the president was "deeply moved by the kind words from the Pope, with whom he is in close and warm contact."

Pope Francis left Rome on Friday to start a four-day trip to Iraq, his most risky foreign trip since his election in 2012.
An Alitalia airplane carrying the pope, his entourage, a security detail, and about 75 journalists, left Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport for the 4-1/2-hour flight to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Iraq is deploying thousands of additional security personnel to protect Francis during the visit, which comes after a spate of rocket and suicide bomb attacks raised fears for the Catholic leader's safety.
The 84-year-old will visit four cities, including the former Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, where churches and other buildings still bear the scars of conflict.
Francis visited Ur on Saturday, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews, and meet Iraq's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The trip is the pope's 33rd outside Italy. He is due to return to Rome on Monday morning.

Reuters contributed to this report.