Christian and Muslim leaders in Mosul have welcomed Pope Francis’ visit to the Iraqi city devastated by war and are calling on Christians who fled the ISIL terrorist group’s onslaught to return.
In a moving scene that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, the pope mounted a stage in a city square surrounded by bombed-out churches and other buildings to deliver a message of peace and unity.
The Rev. Raed Kallo, the only priest in Iraq’s second largest city, shared his story among the crowd and before the pontiff. He fled along with most of his congregation of 500 Christian families when ISIL overran the city in June 2014.
But he said he returned three years ago, after the extremists were defeated by Iraqi army and popular forces, with a remarkable role played by the former chief of the IRGC’s Al-Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani, in a grueling campaign that left much of the city in ruins. He said: “My Muslim brothers received me after the liberation of the city with great hospitality and love.”
But he said only around 70 Christian families reside in Mosul today. The rest are afraid to return and many have emigrated abroad.
It is worth noting that on January 3, 2020, a US drone attack killed General Suleimani after a long journey of fighting and defeating the terrorist groups in Mosul and the entire Iraq.