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‘A real via crucis’: Pope Francis, patriarch plead on behalf of Iraq’s Christians

August 08, 2014

Pope Francis has renewed his appeal to the Church to intercede for the persecuted Christians of Iraq.

“The Holy Father is following with deep concern the dramatic news reports coming from northern Iraq, which involve defenseless populations,” Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a statement issued August 7. “Christian communities are particularly affected: a people fleeing from their villages because of the violence that rages in these days, wreaking havoc on the entire region.”

“At the Angelus prayer on July 20th,” Father Lombardi recalled, “Pope Francis cried with pain: ‘[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!’”

Father Lombardi continued:

In light of these terrible developments, the Holy Father renews his spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering through this painful trial, and makes the impassioned appeals of the local bishops his own, asking together with them in behalf of their sorely tried communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.

His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance – especially the most urgently needed aid – to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence.... Mary Queen of peace, pray for us! (Angelus, July 20, 2014)”

The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic church to which the majority of Iraq’s Christians belong, also issued an appeal on August 7.

“The ISIS militants attacked with mortars most of the villages of the plain of Nineveh, during the night of 6th-7th of August and now they are controlling the area. The Christians, about 100,000, horrified and panicked, fled their villages and houses [with] nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako. “An exodus, a real via crucis, Christians are walking on foot in Iraq's searing summer heat towards the Kurdish cities of Erbil, Duhok and Soulaymiyia, the sick, the elderly, infants and pregnant women among them. They are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide. They need water, food, shelter.”

He continued:

Regarding the churches and church properties in the villages now being occupied by the ISIS militants, we have reports of destruction and desecration. The old manuscripts and documents (1500) are being burnt.

As evident to all, the Central Government is incapable of enforcing law and order in this part of the country. There are also doubts about the capacity of the Kurdistan Region alone to defend the fierce advance of the jihadists. Clearly, there is a lack of cooperation between the Central Government and the Regional Autonomous Government. This "vacuum" is profited by the ISIS to impose their rule and terror. There is a need of international support and a professional, well equipped army. The situation is going from bad to worse.

We appeal with sadness and pain to the conscience of all and all people of good will and the United Nations and the European Union, to save these innocent persons from death. We hope it is not too late!


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 08, 2014 10:16 PM ET USA

    "...Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence.... Mary Queen of peace, pray for us! (Angelus, July 20, 2014)” I think I have to be brutally blunt here...; There are only TWO WAYS for a "warless peace" to be achieved in such a situation...; One is by sincere & sustained devotion to the Blessed Mother..., & the other is by the blood of Martyrs.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Aug. 08, 2014 8:18 PM ET USA

    We are partly and maybe mostly responsible for this horror, this catastrophe. Had we not invaded Iraq in the first place and honored the sovereignty of that nation, this would not be happening. Yes, Saddam Hussein was not a good man, but he did not persecute the Christians or other religious groups. What has been gained by our decade + of war in Iraq? Tell me, what? Yes, pray, but more must be done in a practical way to help these people. Much more!

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Aug. 08, 2014 7:14 PM ET USA

    The U.S. certainly unleashed Satan from the abyss by invading Iraq.

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 08, 2014 5:42 PM ET USA

    So is Pope Francis making any phone calls? Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Putin, Hollande?