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Pope Francis received a jubilant greeting from the prime minister of Iraq. Many have expressed concern over the timing of the trip, citing an increase in rocket attacks and cases of the China communist virus.
Iraqi leaders, however, view the trip as an opportunity to regain international prestige, as well as spark continued growth in the war-torn country. While Francis also reflected on Pope St. John Paul II’s canceled trip by Saddam Hussein, saying, “One cannot disappoint a people a second time.”
In a speech at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, Pope Francis said, “Dear brothers and sisters. I embrace everybody with paternal affection, and I thank the Lord that in His providence He has permitted us to meet together today.”
Cardinal Louis Sako, patriarch of Babylon, has high hopes for Francis’ meeting with Muslim Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sako wants the pope to sign a similar document on human fraternity with the Shia leader as he did with Sunni-Muslim leader Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb.
The Christian population in Iraq has been nearly decimated. Since 2003, Islamic violence or forced exile have decreased the Christian population by nearly 80%. The remaining Christians live in poverty and status as second-class citizens.
Pope Francis: “In the fragility …
Christians aren’t the only religious minority Muslims have raped, murdered and sold into slavery. Francis is expected to pray with local Yezedis — a religion based on a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs who pray to a so-called peacock god.
Francis encourages Christians to persevere: “You all in the last 10 years have faced the effects of war and persecution. I thank you, brothers and priests, for remaining close to your people.”
Under Francis, Catholics around the world have lost or watered down their faith. One must wonder what it is worth if human fraternity achieves peace in this world but loses it in the next.