- Feb 24, 2021
Iraq’s Christian communities were dealt a severe blow when they were scattered by the IS onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country’s already dwindling Christian population. Many hope their struggle to endure will get a boost from a historic visit by Pope Francis planned in March.
Father Naim Shoshandy has plenty of reasons to be angry: On March 23, 2014, the terrorist organization known as Islamic State murdered his 27-year-old brother, for no other reason other than the fact that he was a Christian. Today, he welcomes Pope Francis’s “bravery” in deciding to visit the “martyred nation” of Iraq.
As Pope Francis continues his efforts to encourage and personally engage in interreligious dialogue, his planned March trip to Iraq will be an opportunity to extend a hand to the Shiite Muslim community.
A priest from Qaraqosh helping to prepare the city’s youth for Pope Francis’s visit next month has said the fact that a pope is coming has shown young people that the Church, which can often seem far away, is close to them.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing security concerns, Pope Francis is determined to visit Iraq to pay homage to Christian and other minorities persecuted for their faith and to strengthen the commitment of the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Muslims to creating a future of peace and harmony.
Pope Francis hopes to embark on the first-ever papal visit to the biblical land of Iraq in March 5-8 in a spiritual pilgrimage to the place known in Arabic as the “land of the two rivers” and once renowned as Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization.”