Pope Francis prepares for trip to Iraq, to encourage Christians on path to reconciliation

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There's less than a month to go before one of the most symbolic trips of Pope Francis' pontificate.

He will visit Iraq from March 5 to 8. It's a trip he's had on his wish list for years.

Meeting with ROACO, June 2019
“An insistent thought accompanies me thinking about Iraq, which I wish to visit next year.”

The trip is very important because the pope will visit the Christians ISIS forced out of their homes in August 2014.

The Christians had received a letter like this one. ISIS told them that if they wanted to stay in Mosul, they had to convert to Islam or pay a 'protection fee' equivalent to $750 per adult male.

They also threatened Shia Muslims.

In a matter of days, not a single Christian remained in the city. They had fled to camps in Kurdistan.

When they were able to return after 2017, they found nothing but rubble.

It's these places the pope will visit.

Project Manager, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
“The Holy Father's trip to Iraq is such a sign of encouragement, a message of hope to the Iraqi Christians who have been tested on their faith all down the centuries. And you know, when you are a minority, you can feel very alone sometimes. You can feel abandoned, and the fact that Pope Francis is going now in such a difficult time is going to give the Iraqi Christians hope.”

Aid to the Church in Need provided essential aid to the Christians in refugee camps. The foundation also helped them rebuild churches and houses so they could return to their homes.

The pope will bring them comfort and encouragement on their path to reconciliation.

Meeting with ROACO, June 2019
“That [Iraq] may look to the future through peaceful and shared participation in building the common good of all.”

Project Manager, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)
“I...you know, as Christians, we always have to have hope. And one of our calls is to reconciliation, no matter how difficult that can be. Certainly, the Christians have suffered terribly. And I think there are deep scars there. But we try to encourage them ourselves. When we, when we handed over a repaired house to a family, a Christian family, we also gave them an olive tree to plant as a sign of reconciliation.”

During his four-day trip, the pope will also visit Ur, the land of Abraham, and the holy city of Nayaf, the third most important city for Shia Muslims. There he will meet with the Grand Ayatollah, Ali al-Sistani


Translation: CT

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