Time.news – “The tragic shrinking of the disciples of Christ, here and throughout the Middle East, is an incalculable damage not only for the people and communities concerned, but for the very society they leave behind”. Pope Francis said this in moment of prayer in suffrage for the victims of the war in Iraq, which took place in Mosul. The ISIS occupation of the Nineveh Plain has emptied this region of the Christian presence. More than 100,000 Christians have been forced to flee their homes along with other persecuted minorities such as the Yazidis. Many of these families found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Francis made a stop on the third day of his trip to Iraq. In recent years, at least 55,000 Iraqi Christians have also expatriated from Kurdistan Iraqi. The destructive fury of the jihadists has not spared their churches and properties, which have been destroyed or severely damaged.
“A cultural and religious fabric so rich in diversity is weakened by the loss of any of its members, however small. As in one of your art rugs, a small torn thread can damage the whole,” he added. “The true identity of this city is that of harmonious coexistence between people of different origins and cultures. For this reason, I warmly welcome the “invitation” to the Christian community to return to Mosul and to assume the vital role that is proper to it in the process of rehabilitation and renewal “, Bergoglio underlined.
“Today, despite everything, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is stronger than fratricide, that hope is stronger than death, that peace is stronger than war. This conviction speaks more eloquently than that of hatred and violence; and it can never be suffocated in the blood shed by those who pervert the name of God by walking along roads of destruction “, Pope Francis said again during the prayer. Then he asked or all those present to join in prayer, without distinction of religious belief, “aware that in the eyes of God we are all brothers”.
“Today we raise our voices in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict”, the Pope continued, “Here in Mosul the tragic consequences of war and hostilities are all too evident. How cruel that this country, the cradle of civilization, has been hit by such an inhuman storm, with ancient places of worship destroyed and thousands and thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others – forcibly displaced or killed “.
From Mosul, the pontiff went to Qaraqosh, one of the oldest Christian cities and also heavily damaged in 2014 following the rise of Isis in the area.
The Pope landed early this morning in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where local Christian communities have suffered the domination of the jihadist ‘caliphate’. The third day of the Pontiff’s historic visit to Iraq is also considered the most ‘risky’ in terms of security: Erbil airport was targeted a few weeks ago by a series of rockets that killed two people and the deployment of forces is huge.
In Erbil, Francesco had a brief meeting with the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, and his cousin the premier, Masrour Barzani.