Pope makes a closing enchantment to the Iraqi Christian neighborhood

VATICAN CITY (RNA) – On his last full day in Iraq, Pope Francis urged the warring Christians in the war-weary country to hold on to their roots and forgive their oppressors in order to better use their energies to restore their shattered hearts and homes through IS profession.

Now it is time to rebuild and start over and rely on the grace of God who guides the fate of all individuals and peoples, ”said the Pope on Sunday (March 7th) in Qaraqosh, a Christian city in the plain of Nineveh in Iraq. .

“You are not alone! The entire Church is close by, with prayers and concrete charity. And in this region so many people have opened their doors for you in times of need,” said Francis.

Francis, the first Pope to visit Iraq, spread a message of religious dialogue, tolerance and peace. Christians in the plains of Nineveh, the religiously diverse area east and northeast of the city of Mosul that is sometimes referred to as the “cradle of Christianity”, suffered greatly when IS came to power in 2014. Churches and places of worship were destroyed and thousands of people were destroyed. People were forced to leave their homes.

At that time, the Christian community in Iraq numbered about 1.4 million people, but after years of occupation, war and financial instability, only 300,000 remain. Francis dedicated his last day in the country, encouraging the Christian community to stand firm and be an important voice in the country and the Middle East.

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In Qaraqosh’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, Francis was born by the Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and Syrians throughout the East, as well as by Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III. Yonan greeted. Children lined the islands with excitement for the Pope’s visit.

Our gathering here today shows that terrorism and death never have the last word. The last word belongs to God and his Son, the conqueror of sin and death, ”said the Pope after seeing the devastation that still characterizes the Iraqi city. “Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see through the eyes of faith the triumph of life over death.

Francis stressed the importance of new and older generations coming together to build a better future without forgetting the past. “I encourage you: don’t forget who you are and where you come from! Don’t forget about the bonds that hold you together! Don’t forget to keep your roots! ” he said.

The Pope heard testimony from several lay and religious Christians who were victims of IS violence. Doha Sabah Abdallah, a Qaraqosh woman, described the moment when she noticed that her son was killed by a bomb during the raid.

“We, the survivors, are trying to forgive the attacker because our teacher Jesus forgave his executioners,” said the woman. “By imitating him in our suffering, we testify that love is more powerful than anything else.”

Francis told the gathering that forgiveness is “a key word” for the broken Christian community in Iraq. “What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up,” he said.

The Pope also made a strong appeal to women and mothers in the Muslim-majority country. “May women be respected and protected! May they be respected and opportunities offered! “He said and asked the Virgin Mary to intercede for her.

Before that, Francis visited Mosul, where he led a prayer for war victims in the church square, which was lined with four churches of different denominations.

The Pope condemned the “cruel” and “barbaric” destruction of the old places of worship in the city as well as the expulsion and murder of many Christians, Muslims and Yazidis. “Today, however, we reaffirm our belief that brotherhood is more lasting than fratricide, that hope is stronger than hatred, that peace is stronger than war,” he added.

In the afternoon, Francis returned to Erbil to celebrate mass in the “Franso Hariri” stadium, which was only about a third or about 10,000 people filled to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Francis addressed the greatest crowd of this papal visit and asked the Iraqis to seek unity. Jesus, he said, “frees us from the narrow and divisive notions of family, faith and community that divide, oppose and exclude each other so that we can build a church and society that is open to all and caring about our brothers and sisters cares in dire need. ”

The Pope urged Christians to become “instruments of the mercy and peace of God, patient and courageous craftsmen of a new social order”.

He thanked the government and the religious authorities and warmly welcomed the beloved Kurdish people. The Pope also praised the Christian organizations active in Iraq by helping to promote interfaith dialogue in the country.

“This is one of the reasons why I came among you as a pilgrim to thank you and confirm you in your faith and testimony,” said Pope Francis. “Today I can see firsthand that the Church lives in Iraq, that Christ lives and works in this, his holy and faithful people.”

Pope Francis will leave Iraq to return to the Vatican on Monday, March 8th.

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