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Cardinal Filoni Meets With Pope Following Mission to Iraq

card. Filoni – en

Fides Agency - published on 08/22/14 - updated on 06/08/17

The Church is against war, but the refugees have the right to be defended, papal envoy says.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who returned from Iraq after his visit as personal envoy of Pope Francis, met the Pope to inform him about the mission entrusted to him.

Cardinal Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said Pope Francis "was really taken" by his description of Christians and other minorities forced from their homes in northwestern Iraq by militias belonging to the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Catholic News Service.

The Pope met Cardinal Filoni early Aug. 21, the morning after the cardinal returned to the Vatican following an Aug. 13-20 visit to Iraq.

Cardinal Filoni, a former Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Fides Agency about the meetings and impressions that marked the days spent in the devastated Middle Eastern country:

Your visit was an emergency humanitarian trip which involved Christians and the other inhabitants of northern Iraq. What did you see?

It was a mission in the suffering accomplished especially among Christians who escaped from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Uprooted from their homes, from the simplicity of their daily lives, to end up catapultated in an unpredictable situation. To find oneself, from one day to the next, without a home, without clothes, without all the bare necessities that one takes for granted and that now no longer exist, such as no water to wash oneself, with a temperature of 47 degrees [Celsius, or 116 degrees Farenheit]. Or sleep on the street or in the garden, under a tree or under a plastic cover. With women used to working in the house, who appear disorientated. With children who are perhaps the only ones who do not understand the drama of the situation, and they run to and fro. With the elderly thrown in a corner and the sick who do not know if there is a doctor or medicines for them.

Is there an encounter, an event that particularly struck you?

A mother showed me her little 3 month girl, saying that while they were fleeing from Mosul, the baby’s gold earrings were removed. The object in itself is not important, but that violence also expresses contempt towards the little ones. I said: they have removed the earrings, but the most precious things are still with you: your child and your dignity. This wounded dignity that no one could take away. They were happy. They began to clap.

How were you welcomed?

The fact that the Pope was unable to be present personally and immediately sent his personal envoy – not a diplomat, was a significant sign that he wanted to share everything with them. And I lived those days among them. I felt privileged compared to them, for the fact of having a room where to sleep and a bit of water to wash my hands. But I shared everything with them. I did not represent myself, but the Holy Father, and this sharing everything with them was a sign of the Pope’s closeness. I visited Christian and Yazidi villages. And then I participated in the life of the local Church. Even the Bishops, priests, religious men and women had to flee and had to find a place where to sleep. Through the envoy, the Pope wanted to encourage everyone, tell everyone that they have not been forgotten.

Returning from Korea, Pope Francis recognized that the way to stop the unjust aggressor is to be sought in international bodies.

The Church as Church is and will always be against war. But these poor people have the right to be defended. They have no weapons, they have been driven out from their homes in a cowardly way, they have not engaged the enemy.

How can one guarantee the right of these people to live in dignity in their own homes?

Certainly not giving way to violence and trying to contain it in every way. But we cannot hear the cry of these people who tell us: help us, and defend us.

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Christians in the Middle EastIraqPope Francis
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