Iraqis entitled to live in peace says pope

(ANSA) – VATICAN CITY, MAR 10 – The people of Iraq are
entitled to live in peace, Pope Francis said at his weekly
general audience on Wednesday.
    Fraternity is a challenge for Iraq and the whole world, the
pontiff said according to Vatican News.
    Francis said he had an an “unforgettable” meeting with the Grand
Ayatollah Al-Sistani on his recent historic visit to the Iraq,
the first by a pontiff.
    “I strongly felt a penitential sense regarding this pilgrimage,”
said the Pope.
    “I could not draw near to that tortured people, to that
martyr-Church, without taking upon myself, in the name of the
Catholic Church, the cross they have been carrying for years; a
huge cross, like the one placed at the entrance of Qaraqosh.”
Pope Francis explained that he felt this sense in a special way
when he saw the still open wounds of the destruction, and even
more so, when he met with and listened to the witnesses who had
survived the violence and persecution.
    “The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace; they have the
right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them,” Pope
Francis stated.
    Recalling the country’s religious and cultural roots which are
thousands of years old, the Holy Father noted that Mesopotamia
is the cradle of civilization.
    Historically, he added, Baghdad is a city of primary importance, “hosting for centuries the richest library in the world.” “And what destroyed it? War!” the Pope lamented.
    War, he explained, “is always the monster that transforms itself
with the change of epochs and continues to devour humanity.” “But the response to war is not another war, the response to
weapons is not other weapons… The response is fraternity,”
Pope Francis affirmed.
    This, he insisted, is the “challenge not only for Iraq but for
many regions in conflict and, ultimately, for the whole world.”
Recalling his meeting with religious leaders in Ur during his
Apostolic journey, Pope Francis said that Christians, Muslims
and representatives came together to pray in Ur, where Abraham
received God’s call about four thousand years ago.
    He further explained that Abraham is our father in faith because
listening to God’s voice promising him descendants, he left
everything and departed. 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.
    “God is faithful to his promises,” the Pope said. He “guides our
steps toward peace still today. He guides the steps of those who
journey on Earth with their gaze turned toward Heaven.”
Further emphasizing the importance of fraternity, Pope Francis
noted that a message of fraternity came from the ecclesial
meeting in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad where
forty-eight people, including two priests were killed during the
celebration of Holy Mass in 2010.
    He said that in that temple which bears the names of those
martyrs inscribed in stone, the joy of encounter resounded as
his “amazement at being in their midst mingled with their joy at
having the Pope among them.”
The Holy Father also launched another message of fraternity from
Mosul and Qaraqosh, on the Tigris River, near the ruins of
ancient Nineveh. There, the occupation of the so-called Islamic
State caused several thousands to flee for their lives,
including Christians and other persecuted minorities, in
particular the Yazidis.
    He noted that reconstruction efforts are underway and Muslims
and Christians are working together to restore churches and
mosques.
    The Pope enjoined all to pray for them that “they may have the
strength to start over.” He also remembered the many Iraqi
emigrants and reminded them, who have left everything like
Abraham, to “keep the faith and hope” and be weavers of
friendship and fraternity where they are.
    Another message of fraternity came from the two Eucharistic
celebrations in Baghdad and Erbil.
    Pope Francis explained that “Abraham’s hope, and that of his
descendants is fulfilled in the mystery we celebrated, in Jesus,
the Son that God the Father did not spare, but gave for
everyone’s salvation: through His death and resurrection, He
opened the way to the promised land, to that new life where
tears dried, wounds are healed, brothers and sisters are
reconciled.”
Concluding his remarks at the General Audience, the Pope praised
God for the Apostolic Journey, and encouraged all to pray for
Iraq and the Middle East where, in spite of the destruction and
weapons, the palm trees, symbol of the country and its hope,
have continued to grow and bear fruit.
    “So it is for fraternity,” the Pope said. “It does not make
noise, but is fruitful and makes us grow.” (ANSA).
   

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