Says he is willing to visit nation where Christians are under seige.
Pope Francis supports international intervention in Iraq and is willing to go to there personally if it will help end the violence against Christians and other religious minorities, Catholic News Agency reports.
“In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Pope Francis told reporters on his flight back from South Korea. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I don’t say ‘to bomb’ or ‘make war,’ (but) ‘stop it,’” the Pope said.
The Pope noted the Holy See’s diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Iraq, especially against religious minorities. He said that a papal visit to the country was “one of the possibilities.”
“And in this moment, I am ready,” he added, “and right now it isn’t the most, the best thing to do but I am disposed to this.”
Military victories by the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIL or ISIS, have resulted in persecution and murder of Iraqi Christians and other minorities. According to the United Nations, there are now about a million internally displaced persons in Iraq. The Christians who have taken shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan are in a no-man’s land, wondering what to do and where to go next.
“All the schools are crowded by IDPs, and school will restart in mid-September, so people have to get out of the schools soon,” said Oliver Hochedetz, emergency relief coordinator in Irbil for Malteser International, the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. “They are traumatized as well , and from a psychological point of view it’s very difficult for them because they…have lost their hope of going back home. So many people are going to embassies, trying to get visas for various countries. It’s quite desperate for them.”
Pope Francis has met with the governor of Iraqi Kurdistan and has named Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq. Cardinal Filoni arrived in Iraq last week. He and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, the apostolic nuncio, and local bishops visited the Christian and Yazidi refugees in Duhok and Erbil and “heard about and saw for themselves the tragedy and suffering of so many families that have left their villages, their homes and property, above all in Mosul, on the plain of Nineveh, and in Sinjar,” said a report from Fides Agency.
They also met with the political authorities of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan and on Saturday issued a statement asking the international community to not only bring humanitarian assistance to the refugees but to make it possible for them to return to their homes.
The statement urged the international community to “liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result,” and to “assure that there is international protection for these villages and so to encourage these families to go back to their homes and to continue to live a normal life in security and peace.”
Their words, though carefully formulated, seem to be yet another imprimatur for some kind of military response to the crisis. Earlier this month, the Vatican’s representative at UN headquarters in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, told Vatican Radio, “We hope the voice that is surging from different Christian and religious communities, from moderate Muslims, from people of good will around the world, may find the response of concrete humanitarian assistance that is provided for the Christians in northern Iraq as well as some political and even effective military protection.”
Church voices raised in favor of some kind of intervention, albeit cautiously, are in stark contrast to the recent Vatican history of opposition to any use of US military force in the Middle East. But can ISIL be driven out of the towns where Christians have lived since the early days of the Church, and can Christians return with the assurance that they will be able to live there in peace?