Pope to Iraqi clergy, religious: Violence and hate are incompatible with religion
Pope Francis meets with bishops, clergy and religious in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, stressing the importance of sowing seeds of reconciliation and fraternal coexistence that can lead to a rebirth of hope for everyone.
By Lydia O’Kane
In 2010, 48 worshippers including women and children, and two young priests were killed in a terrorist attack at the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.
More than ten years on from that horrific event, Pope Francis came to this place of worship on Friday, the first day of his Apostolic Visit to Iraq.
Addressing those present, the Pope told them never to lock down their apostolic zeal in the face of daily challenges, especially during this time of pandemic.
“We know how easy it is to be infected by the virus of discouragement that at times seems to spread all around us,” he said. “Yet the Lord has given us an effective vaccine against that nasty virus. It is the hope born of persevering prayer and daily fidelity to our apostolates.”
Pope Francis went on to say that with this vaccine, “we can go forth with renewed strength, to share the joy of the Gospel as missionary disciples and living signs of the presence of God’s kingdom of holiness, justice and peace.”
Perseverance amid hardship
The Pope highlighted the hardships that so many Iraqi faithful have faced in recent decades. He spoke of the effects of war and persecution, the fragility of basic infrastructures and the ongoing struggle for economic and personal security that has frequently led to internal displacements and the migration of many people, including Christians, to other parts of the world.
Pope Francis also thanked his “brother bishops and priests,” for remaining close to their people; and he encouraged them to persevere in these efforts, “in order to ensure that Iraq’s Catholic community, though small like a mustard seed, continues to enrich the life of society as a whole.”
“The love of Christ,” said the Pope, “summons us to set aside every kind of self-centredness or competition; it impels us to universal communion and challenges us to form a community of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”
“How important is this witness of fraternal union in a world all too often fragmented and torn by division,” he said. “Every effort made to build bridges between ecclesial, parish and diocesan communities and institutions will serve as a prophetic gesture on the part of the Church in Iraq and a fruitful response to Jesus’ prayer that all may be one.”