Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis today, Sunday, is with the Christian communities in Iraq as part of his historic tour of the Arab country in continued efforts to wage peace between Christians and Muslims.
The 84-year-old Francis is travelling under tight security and is leading a prayer “for the victims of the war” in Mosul, an ancient crossroads whose centre was reduced to rubble by fierce fighting to oust IS.
The Christian communities in Iraq have been subjected to gruesome all manner of persecutions and death especially in the hands of Islamic fanatics and terror groups but the defeat of ISIS by the US administration under former president Donald Trump has helped to reduce their sufferings.
“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” Francis said at an interfaith service earlier on Saturday, one of the many stops on the first-ever papal visit to the war-scarred country.
Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq as a “pilgrim of peace” aims to reassure the country’s ancient, but dwindling, Christian community and to expand his dialogue with other religions.
The leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics on Saturday met Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric, the reclusive Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who agreed that Iraq’s Christians should be able to live in “peace”.
“We all hope that this visit will be a good omen for the Iraqi people,” Adnane Youssef, a Christian from northern Iraq, said, according to earlier report by AFP which African Community News is monitoring.
He added that- “We hope that it will lead to better days.”
The Christian community of Iraq, a Muslim-majority country of 40 million, has shrunk from 1.5 million before the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein to only 400,000 now, about one percent of the population.
“This very important visit will boost our morale after years of difficulties, problems and wars,” said an Iraqi Christian leader, Father George Jahoula.