Praises their witness of suffering
Pope Francis today sent a videomessage to the Christian refugees of Mosul in Erbil.
According to a report from the Holy See Press Office, as part of the twinning of the Dioceses of Lyon (France) and Mosul (Iraq), French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is spending two days — for the second time after an initial trip last July — in Erbil visiting the Christians of Mosul who have fled to the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. The cardinal has been accompanied by approximately 100 faithful from the Diocese of Lyon.
Pope Francis’ videomessage was presented at approximately 3pm Rome time today, December 6, during Cardinal Barbarin’s two-day visit.
Below we publish an English translation of the Pope’s message, which was delivered in Italian.
Dear brothers and sisters,
I wish to greet each and every one of you, together with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is again bringing you the concern and love of the whole Church. I, too, would like to be there, but since I cannot travel, I am doing this … but I am very close to you in these trying times. I said on the return from my visit to Turkey: Christians have painfully been driven out of the Middle East. I thank you for the witness you are giving; there is such great suffering in your witness. Thank you! Thank you so very much!
It seems that they don’t want Christians there, but you are bearing witness to Christ.
I think of the wounds, the suffering of mothers with their children, of the elderly and displaced, of the injuries of those who are victims of every kind of violence.
As I recalled in Ankara, particular concern stems from the fact that, mainly because an extremist and fundamentalist group, whole communities, especially — but not only — Christians and Yazidis have suffered, and still suffer inhuman violence on account of their religious and ethnic identity. Christians and Yazidis have been forcibly driven from their homes, they have had to abandon everything in order to save their lives and not deny the faith. Violence has struck even sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural heritage sites, as if to erase every trace, every memory of the other.
As religious leaders, we have an obligation to denounce all violations of human dignity and rights.
Today I would like to draw near to you who are enduring this suffering, to be close to you …. And I think of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who said that she and the Church felt like a reed: when the wind and the storm comes, the reed bends, but it does not break! You are now this reed, you bend in suffering, but you have the strength to carry on your faith, which for us is a witness. You are the reeds of God today. The reeds that are bowed down by this fierce wind, but that will then arise!
I want to thank you again. I pray to the Spirit who makes all things new, to give to each of you strength and endurance. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And together I strongly urge, as I did in Turkey, a greater international effort to resolve the conflicts that cause bloodshed in your lands of origin, to counteract the other causes that drive people to leave their homeland, and to promote the conditions needed for them to remain or return. I hope that you will return, that you will be able to return.
Dear brothers and sisters, you are in my heart, and in my prayer, and in the hearts and prayers of all Christian communities whom I ask to pray, especially for you, on December 8, to pray to Our Lady that she may watch over and keep you: She is a mother, may she watch over and keep you.
Brothers and sisters, your endurance is a martyrdom, a fruitful dew. Please, I ask you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you, may Our Lady keep you.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Translation by Diane Montagna ofAleteia’s English edition