By Michael CrooksTuesday 9 Mar 2021
During a historic visit to Iraq on March 7, Pope Francis spoke of the thousands of people murdered in the city of Mosul in recent years, but his message was one of forgiveness and resilience.
“The road to a full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to grow discouraged,” the Pontiff said.
“What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up.”
“What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up,” – Pope Francis
Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on March 5 for a four-day tour of the ravaged, blood-soaked land as a “pilgrim of peace”.
The tour is the first Papal trip to Iraq.
It is also the Pontiff’s first international tour since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The 84 year old and his touring entourage are all vaccinated.
In a video message before his departure, the Pope said his mission was to “implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg from God the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds”.
Visit to Mosul
In Mosul, Pope Francis spoke from the ruins of a church, spreading a message of peace to the depleted Christian community. The ISIS terror group had tried to wipe out the Christian population during their control of the region from 2014 and 2017.
The ISIS terror group had tried to wipe out the Christian population during their control of the region from 2014 and 2017.
“Today we raise our voices in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict,” the Pope said.
“Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident.”
Earlier, he had visited a church in the northern city of Qaraqosh (also known as Bakhdida), telling the crowds that “terrorism and death never have the last word”.
“Terrorism and death never have the last word,” – Pope Francis
Since the defeat of ISIS, northern Iraq is still struggling to rebuild and more than a million people remain displaced.
Many Christians have fled the region. Iraq’s Christian population has plummeted from 1.5 million before the 2003 US-led invasion to around 250,000 today.
“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilisation, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow,” the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said, adding that people of all religions – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis – “were cruelly annihilated by terrorism and others forcibly displaced or killed”.
“Hope more powerful than hatred”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has embarked on relative risky travel. In 2013, the Argentina-born Pontiff toured a slum in Rio de Janeiro and he has also spread a message of peace in a war zone in the Central African Republic in 2015.
“Today… we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace is more powerful than war,” the Pope said in Iraq.
“Hope is more powerful than hatred… peace is more powerful than war,” the Pope said in Iraq.