Pope calls on Iraq’s Christians to forgive Islamic extremists

Bells rang out within the city of Qaraqosh because the pope arrived. Speaking to a packed Church of the Immaculate Conception, Francis mentioned “forgiveness” is a key phrase for Christians.

“The road to a full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to grow discouraged. What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up.” The Qaraqosh church has been extensively renovated after being vandalized by IS militants throughout their takeover of the city, making it a symbol of recovery efforts.

Iraq’s Christian inhabitants, which has existed right here because the time of Christ, has dwindled from round 1.5 million earlier than the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that plunged the nation into chaos to only a few hundred thousand in the present day.

Francis’s go to to Iraq, which was on its final day Sunday, aimed to encourage them to keep, rebuild and restore what he referred to as Iraq’s “intricately designed carpet” of faiths and ethnic teams.

Dressed in white, Francis took to a pink carpeted stage within the north’s most important metropolis, Mosul, his first cease of the day, surrounded by the gray hollowed-out shells of 4 church buildings almost destroyed within the conflict to oust IS fighters from the town.

It was a scene that might have been unimaginable years earlier. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest metropolis, was on the coronary heart of the IS so-called “caliphate” and witnessed the worst of the group’s rule inflicted on Muslims, Christians and others, together with beheadings and mass killings.

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow,” Francis mentioned, “with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis — who were cruelly annihilated by terrorism and others forcibly displaced or killed.”

He deviated from his ready speech to emphasize the plight of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, which was subjected to mass killings, abductions and sexual slavery by the hands of IS.

“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.”

The sq. the place he spoke is dwelling to 4 completely different church buildings — Syriac Catholic, Armenian-Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean — every left in ruins.

IS inflicted atrocities in opposition to all communities, together with Muslims, throughout its three-year rule throughout a lot of northern and western Iraq. But the Christian minority was hit particularly exhausting. The militants compelled them to select amongst conversion, loss of life or the fee of a particular tax for non-Muslims. Thousands fled, leaving properties and church buildings that have been destroyed or commandeered by the extremists.

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