The protection of civilians in Iraq is “an imperative and urgent duty”: was Pope Francis’ appeal at the Audience on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the day after a massacre of civilians by bombings in Mosul, and in the presence of an inter-religious Iraqi delegation.
“I am happy to greet the delegation of Iraqi leaders made up of representatives of different religious groups, accompanied by Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,” said Pope Francis in Italian at the end of the Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
He made an appeal for the civilian populations, trapped in Mosul between terrorists and the advance of the Iraqi army. “My thought goes to the civilian populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and to the displaced because of the war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness. On expressing profound grief for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all the appeal to commit themselves with all their strength in the protection of civilians, an imperative and urgent duty.”
The Pope pleaded for a future of reconciliation in Iraq. “The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies in this mosaic, which represents unity in diversity, strength in unity, prosperity in harmony. Dear Brothers, I encourage you to continue on this path and I invite to pray so that Iraq finds peace, unity and prosperity in reconciliation and in harmony among its different ethnic and religious components.”
Hundreds of “innocent victims” perished during the fighting for the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, deplored this week the Vatican’s media, notably the Vatican agency Fides, which echoed the “profound grief” and “great alarm” of the Chaldean Church.
On Monday, March 27, 2017, Fides quoted a message of the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Monsignor Louis Raphael Ier Sako, in which he affirmed to need to protect and defend innocent lives during the armed conflicts.
Patriarch Sako made an appeal to respect the laws of war and the moral and religious obligation to protect and defend “innocent lives.”
He follows attentively the developments of the military intervention in Mosul, which has been in the hands of “Jihadists” for almost three years. Local ecclesial committees were activated and charged with providing food assistance to evacuees fleeing the city.
The Patriarch expressed gratitude for the “sense of duty of the Iraqi military men” and his satisfaction over “the advance of the Iraqi military forces in the districts of Mosul.
He concluded his message invoking Almighty God “to protect Iraq and hasten the return to security, peace and stability.”
On Sunday, March 26, U.S. Forces acknowledged their responsibility for the air attack on Mosul, which last March 17 caused the death of some 150 people – the Patriarch spoke of 500 – of women and children trapped in the old city.