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Decline of Christianity in Iraq an ‘Incalculable’ Loss

ROME — Pope Francis visited the war-torn city of Mosul on Sunday, warning the devastation of the Christian community is an incalculable loss for the country and the region.

“The tragic diminution of Jesus’ disciples here and across the Middle East does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned but also to the society they leave behind,” the pope said during his visit to the former Islamic State stronghold as he lamented the “forced displacement of many Christian families from their homes.”

In 2014, the Islamic State captured the city of Mosul, one of the historic centers of the Assyrian Christians and their churches. The Iraqi government only retook the city in the Battle of Mosul three years later, a clash that wreaked untold damage and left hundreds of thousands displaced.

The pontiff said Iraq’s richly diverse cultural and religious fabric “is weakened by the loss of any of its members, however small.”

The real identity of Mosul, he said, “is that of harmonious coexistence between people of different backgrounds and cultures” and the Christian community is called to play a “vital role in the process of healing and renewal.”

“Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident,” the pope said, while calling for Iraqis to raise their voices “in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict.”

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, who were cruelly eliminated by terrorism, and others – forcibly displaced or killed!” he exclaimed.

The pope concluded by reasserting his conviction that what is needed to rebuild Iraq is a common spirit of solidarity and brotherhood, more powerful than sectarian differences.

We reaffirm our conviction “that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war,” he said. “This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”



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