Francis known as for “harmonious coexistence” of individuals from totally different backgrounds and cultures whereas main a prayer at a sq. overlooking the ruins of the Syro-Catholic Church in Mosul’s Old City. Once an ISIS stronghold, the entire metropolis has been fully destroyed in 2017, throughout the nine-monthslong battle over its management.
“Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident,” Francis mentioned. “How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people — Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others — forcibly displaced or killed!”
Thousands of individuals had been killed throughout the battle to recapture Mosul from ISIS, which managed town between 2014 and 2017.
After leaving Mosul, Francis traveled to the Qaraqosh, the most important Christian metropolis in Iraq. Like Mosul, Qaraqosh was additionally managed by the ISIS terrorist group for greater than two years.
The Pope visited town’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, the place he gave a speech and led a prayer. He was greeted by hundreds of individuals there — a marked distinction from his visits to different areas throughout Iraq. The authorities has imposed a complete curfew for the whole thing of the four-day papal go to to attenuate well being and safety dangers.
Late on Sunday, the Pope was scheduled to carry have a good time Mass on the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, in response to Iraq state-run Iraqiya TV. Some 8,000 individuals have gathered on the stadium to welcome the Pope there, safety officers informed Source. The plan had been to have the 35,000 seats stadium at some 50% capability with an empty seat between every of the attendees to permit for social distancing, in response to officers. However, photographs from the stadium confirmed swathes of the stadium stands crammed with individuals seated carefully collectively with out social distancing.
Earlier Sunday, Francis met with Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government, the semi-autonomous area in northern Iraq.
The Pope is believed to have lengthy wished to go to Iraq, which figures closely within the Old Testament, and whose dwindling Christian minority has suffered drastically from the nation’s lengthy cycles of violence.
Thought to be one of many oldest Christian communities on the earth, previous to the 2003 US invasion, there have been 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Around 80% of them have since fled, in response to main Christian clerics there.
He touched down in Baghdad on Friday, the place he was met by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Francis later met with clerics and different officers at a Baghdad church that was the location of a bloody 2010 bloodbath.
Francis then returned to Baghdad on Saturday afternoon and celebrated Mass on the Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph. He is scheduled to depart Iraq on Monday.
Source’s Tamara Qiblawi, Delia Gallagher, Aqeel Najm, Ben Wedeman, Ghazi Balkiz, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Muwafaq and Ben Westcott contributed reporting.