Pope Francis said he “thinks constantly of Iraq” and wishes to travel there in the coming year. Source: Vatican News.
The Pope made the comments yesterday when addressing representatives of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO).
As he listed countries that fall within the Reunion’s reach and where the faithful continue to suffer – including Syria, Ukraine and the Holy Land – the Pope focused on Iraq.
He said he hopes it is able to build a peaceful future based on the “shared pursuit of the common good on the part of all elements of society, including the religious”, without falling back into “hostilities sparked by the simmering conflicts of the regional powers”.
Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered persecution and hardship when the so-called Islamic State took control of large swathes of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out. The country is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. It would be a first-ever apostolic visit to the nation.
Thanking the members of the ROACO committee, which unites funding agencies from various countries for the sake of providing assistance to the clergy and to the faithful of the Oriental churches, ROACO, he said, “attends to the plea of all those, who in these years have been robbed of hope”.
Reflecting briefly on the particular situations in some of the countries and regions ROACO reaches, the Pope expressed sorrow for “the dramatic situation in Syria and the dark clouds that seem to be gathering above it in some yet unstable areas, where the risk of an even greater humanitarian crisis remains high”.
“Nor,” he said, “do I forget Ukraine, in the hope that its people can know peace.”
Then he expressed his trust in a Holy Land initiative in which, he said, “the Christian communities of the status quo are working side-by-side” with the cooperation of local and international actors
Pope Francis wants to travel to Iraq in 2020 (Vatican News)