Archbishop of Lyons Philippe Barbarin says despite their difficulties, Iraqi Christians give great witness and joy.
Last week, Cardinal Barbarin and two other French bishops visited Christian communities affected by the ongoing conflict and unrest in Iraq, reported Vatican Radio.
During their four-day trip which included stops in Karakosh, Alqosh, Kirkuk and Erbil, they met numerous Christians who fled Mosul last month because of the threats from Islamic extremists to either convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed.
Upon his return to France on Friday, Cardinal Barbarin told Vatican Radio that he was moved by the joyful welcome of these communities, despite the difficulties they have lived and everything they have lost.
Despite Iraqi Christians being persecuted for centuries, their witness to faith is noteworthy, he said.
While there, the bishops met with 50 people in a school, about 200 people in a chapel and more than 1,000 people in a cathedral. They also met with other Iraqi Christians, several times per day, in various centers in each of these cities.Saying he was strengthened by their witness as he listened to their stories, he noted the Iraqi Christians were likewise encouraged by the visit of the French bishops. Adding to this positive sentiment, he added that the war-torn nations’ Christians said the demonstrations organized in France showing support for Iraqi Christians comforted them. Prior to this, he said, they felt they had been forgotten.
An example of support from French Catholics was their organizing a special collection for refugees who fled from Mosul.