Chief Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield and Baghdad correspondent Samya Kullab teamed up to provide a science-based reality check to the pope’s planned trip to Iraq. Their story raised questions about how the Vatican can justify going through with the trip during a global pandemic.
Winfield had been preparing a preview on the Iraq trip and Christian-Muslim relations, but while interviewing experts she realized that the virus issues would dominate that story. Instead, she and Kullab hustled to put together a weekend piece focused exclusively on the virus, adding a valuable story to AP’s planned trip line-up.
Beyond the obvious risks involved in any mass religious gathering, the story also raised the more problematic optics of having a vaccinated papal delegation descend on a country where the virus is surging, the vaccine campaign hasn’t even begun and where an already fragile health care system has been weakened by war and economic crises. The story was well timed, given the day it moved the pope’s own ambassador to Iraq tested positive.