Pope Francis made a emphatic appeal for peaceful coexistence in Iraq on Sunday as he prayed for the country’s war dead amid the ruins of four demolished churches in Mosul, which suffered widespread destruction in the war against the ISIL terrorist group.
Francis traveled to northern Iraq on the final day of his historic visit to the country’s dwindling number of Christians, who were forced to leave their homes en masse when IS militants overtook vast swaths of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014.
In a scene unimaginable just four years ago, the pontiff mounted a stage in a city square surrounded by the remnants of four heavily damaged churches belonging to some of Iraq’s myriad Christian rites and denominations. A jubilant crowd welcomed him.
“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 – who were cruelly annihilated by terrorism – and others forcibly displaced or killed,” Francis said.
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.”