Amid the rubble and bombed out remains of four churches destroyed by Islamic State militants, Pope Francis paid tribute to Iraqi Christians who endured persecution and even death. Source: CNS.
But visiting Mosul and Qaraqosh in northern Iraq on Sunday, he also urged the Christians to live up to their faith and honour the sacrifice of those who died by promoting peace and reconciliation.
Much of Mosul’s old city centre remains in ruins or under reconstruction. And Pope Francis stood in Hosh al-Bieaa, church square, facing some of those ruins: the remains of the Syriac Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic churches all destroyed between 2014 and 2017.
His message was clear:
“If God is the God of life – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his name.
“If God is the God of peace – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to wage war in his name.
“If God is the God of love – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.”
In Mosul, 400 kilometres north of Baghdad, Pope Francis listened to the stories of Christians forced to flee, the fear many have to return and the encouragement of Muslim neighbours committed to making the city a thriving, multicultural metropolis again.
Offering prayers “for all the victims of war and armed conflict,” Pope Francis said Mosul is proof of the “tragic consequences of war and hostility.”
“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war,” Francis said. “This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”
Life triumphs over death as Christians rebuild in Iraq, pope says (By Cindy Wooden, CNS)
Pope Francis meets Alan Kurdi’s father (Vatican News)
Pope Francis in Iraq special (Crux)