(AP) — Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections. He is hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world. Security is also a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of Shiite militias three years after IS was largely defeated. Francis, who has always relished plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armored car with a sizeable Iraqi security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds.