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Arriving in Iraq, Pope offers a message of solidarity, renewed hope

March 05, 2021

Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on March 5, beginning a historic four-day visit with a plea for peace, inter-religious harmony, and “an end to acts of violence an extremism, factions and intolerance.”

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The Pontiff spoke to Iraq’s civil leaders during his first day in the country, then later addressed Catholics— including bishops, priests, religious, and lay leaders— gathered at the Syro-Catholic cathedral in Baghdad.

Upon his arrival in the early afternoon at Baghdad International Airport, the Pope was greeted by Iraq’s President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi. Also present were representatives of the Latin, Chaldean, Armenian, and Syriac Catholic churches. Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the papal nuncio in Iraq, was a member of the airport greeting party, having recently recovered from Covid.

The first event on the papal schedule was a brief courtesy visit with President Salih. Then, in an auditorium in the presidential palace, he spoke with civic and political leaders. Reminding them that his visit came under the shadow of the Covid epidemic— which had once threatened to scuttle plans for the trip— Pope Francis said that the disease and the subsequent lockdown of society had created an opportunity to reconsider our lives and emerge “better than we were before, shaping a future based more on what unites us than on what divides us.”

The Pope went on to lament the devastation that years of war, terrorism, and sectarian strife have brought upon Iraq. He paid special attention to the suffering of the Yaziki minority, “innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion.”

Iraq, the Pope said, now has a chance to recover its historic role as a country that welcomed religious and cultural diversity. He emphasized the need to reject extremism, and especially violence committed in the name of religious faith.

Speaking later in the afternoon to a Catholic audience, Pope Francis recalled that the Baghdad cathedral was “hallowed by the blood of our brothers and sisters”— referring to the 48 people killed in a terrorist attack on the building in 2010.

Again stressing that violence is incompatible with true religious faith, the Pope encouraged the Catholic leaders to give their people hope for the future, to guard against “the virus of discouragement that at times seems to spread around us.”

Continuing to explore the same medical image, the Pope said that “the Lord has given us an effective vaccine against that nasty virus. It is the hope born of persevering prayer and daily fidelity to our apostolates.”

 


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  • Posted by: Foundas - Mar. 05, 2021 5:39 PM ET USA

    How about a prayer first: "Dear Lord, let us instill in our brothers who, in the image of God above, so much want to kill those who don't believe as they do, true love and salvation, calling upon them to find the One True Religion as instituted by Jesus Christ Himself. Let them swear allegiance to God's representative on earth" Amen