VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is calling on the Iraqi government to do all they can to stop the recent killing spree of Christians in the northern city of Mosul.
Before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope called the recent killings of Christians as “tragic news,” and that it filled him with “deep sadness.”
At least eight Christians have been killed in the last two weeks. The last murder occurred Tuesday, when an armed commando entered the home of an Assyrian Christian family, killing the father and two sons in front of his wife and daughter, whose lives were spared by the criminals.
Some 15,000 Christians remain in the Muslim-majority city of Mosul, where their families have lived for 2,000 years.
The Holy Father said that during his weeklong spiritual exercises, which ended Saturday, he “followed with much concern the other episodes of violence, perpetrated in the martyred land of Iraq, which have harmed defenseless persons of various religious affiliations.”
“I often prayed for all the victims of those attacks and today I would like to join myself spiritually in prayer for peace and the restoration of security promoted by the council of bishops at Nineveh,” he added.
“I am affectionately near to the Christians communities of the whole country,” said Benedict XVI. “Do not weary of being a ferment for good for the homeland to which, for centuries, you have rightfully belonged!”
Some 1,000 Christians gathered today in Mosul to protest the almost-daily killings. In Kirkuk, a similar march will take place Monday.
In 2000, as many as 5,000 Christian families lived in Mosul. They have endured multiple attacks, particularly in September 2008, after which about half the Christian population fled the city. Many of those subsequently returned.
The murders come just ahead of March 7 parliamentary elections in the country, which many see to be decisive for determining the future direction of the country.
“In the delicate political phase that Iraq is passing through I call upon the civil authorities that they do everything possible to restore security to the population and, especially to the most vulnerable religious minorities,” urged Benedict XVI.
“It is my wish that they do not given in to the temptation to allow the temporary and special interests prevail over the safety and the fundamental rights of every citizen,” he continued.
“Finally,” the Pope added, “as I greet the Iraqis present here in the piazza, I exhort the international community to do its best to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I ask with confidence from God almighty the precious gift of peace.”
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