Maltese Jesuit in Iraq says Pope’s apostolic visit will solve many of the country’s problems
Pope Francis condemned religious extremism during his historic visit in Iraq where the Christian community was greatly diminished following the U.S. invasion 18 years ago. The Pope said that hostility, extremism and violence are not born through a religious heart, but are traitors of religion.
Television Malta spoke with a Maltese Jesuit in Iraq, Fr Joseph Cassar, who stated that the sentiment among christians is that this apostolic visit will solve many of the country’s problems and that the Pointiff wants to bring different communities closer to each other.
“Naturally, the Pope has no switch to immediately change the situation, however I always believe that through God’s will, by working among people and in what the Pope is doing so that people of various communities may be closer to each other”.
Fr Joseph has spent the past five years working with refugees who in recent years had to move to other parts of Iraq due to threats by the Islamic State.
On Saturday morning, Pope Francis met Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, leader of millions of Shi’ite muslims, at Najaf during which the Pope appealed for collaboration between religious communities. The Pointiff also visited Ur, where it is believed that patriarch Abraham lived, and joined representatives of different religions for an inter-religious service.
Fr Joseph remarked that the Christian community in Iraq was reduced to some 250,000 persons since the U.S. invasion. “Since 2013, Christians who were in Baghdad and other places felt threatened and had to escape to other areas of the country”.
Pope is today expected to visit Mosul which was destroyed by ISIS and will pray for the victims’ souls. “He will pray near an old church which is still in a demolished state, not only to rebuild the church, but the Pope wants to rebuild the Mosul community, both Christians and of other religions”.
On Sunday, the Pope will also celebrate Mass at the Ebril stadium for around 10,000 persons.