Pope Francis urges displaced Iraqis to return if possible

Pope Francis has urged Iraqis who fled their country to go back if they can. “Never before has a pope been in the land of Abraham. Providence willed that this should happen now, as a sign of hope, after years of war and terrorism, and during a severe pandemic,” he said during the first audience in the Vatican, attended by Arab News, after his historic visit to Iraq. 

“Thinking of the many Iraqis who have emigrated, I would like to say to them, ‘You have left everything behind, like Abraham. Like him, keep your faith and hope, and be weavers of friendship and brotherhood wherever you are. And if you can, go back.” 

Recalling that Daesh forced thousands of people to flee, including Christians of different confessions and other persecuted minorities, the pope said: “After the identity of too many cities was ruined, Iraqis are trying hard to rebuild what was destroyed. Now Muslims invite Christians to return, and together they restore churches and mosques.”
“War is always the monster that, with the changing of the epochs, transforms itself and continues to devour humanity. But the answer to war is not another war. The answer to weapons is not more weapons. The answer is fraternity. This is the challenge for Iraq and for many regions torn by conflict and, ultimately, for the entire world.” 

The pope thanked God and all those in Iraq who made his visit possible, including the government, the country’s patriarchs and bishops, as well as the faithful. He said he had an “unforgettable” meeting with top Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani at the latter’s residence in the Iraqi city of Najaf. 

The leader of the Catholic Church recalled his meeting with religious leaders in Ur, where Abraham received God’s call. Abraham “is our father in faith because listening to God’s voice promising him descendants, he left everything and departed,” the pope said. “And at Ur, standing together under the same sky in which our father Abraham saw us, his descendants, the phrase ‘you are all brothers’ seems to resound once again.” 

by Francesco Bongarra

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