Authentic religious teaching is incompatible with war, hate, violence, bloodshed, says pope in first addresses in Iraq.
Speaking from the beautiful Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad, which just over 10 years ago was the site of the massacre of dozens of people at prayer, Pope Francis praised Iraqis’ efforts to be peacemakers.
The pope mentioned the 2010 terrorist attack, noting that a cause of beatification is underway for the victims.
“Their deaths are a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence, or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings,” he said, citing his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti.
He expanded his message to include “all the victims of violence and persecution, regardless of the religious group to which they belong.” In his earlier address, he had mentioned the plight of the Yazidis, “innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion, and whose very identity and survival was put at risk.”
“Tomorrow, in Ur, I will meet with the leaders of the religious traditions present in this country, in order to proclaim once again our conviction that religion must serve the cause of peace and unity among all God’s children,” Francis told the religious, priests, bishops and catechists. “This evening I want to thank you for your efforts to be peacemakers, within your communities and with believers of other religious traditions, sowing seeds of reconciliation and fraternal coexistence that can lead to a rebirth of hope for everyone.”
God answers prayers
The message was the second the pope gave on this first day of his four-day trip to Iraq. Earlier in the afternoon, he addressed Iraq’s government leaders and diplomats, also noting with them the fight for peace.
“I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty,” the pope said. “I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace. How much we have prayed in these years for peace in Iraq! Saint John Paul II spared no initiatives and above all offered his prayers and sufferings for this intention. And God listens, he always listens! It is up to us to listen to him and to walk in his ways.
May the clash of arms be silenced! May their spread be curbed, here and everywhere! May partisan interests cease, those outside interests uninterested in the local population. May the voice of builders and peacemakers find a hearing! The voice of the humble, the poor, the ordinary men and women who want to live, work and pray in peace. May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance! May room be made for all those citizens who seek to cooperate in building up this country through dialogue and through frank, sincere and constructive discussion. Citizens committed to reconciliation and prepared, for the common good, to set aside their own interests. Iraq has sought in these years to lay the foundations for a democratic society. For this, it is essential to ensure the participation of all political, social and religious groups and to guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens. May no one be considered a second-class citizen. I encourage the strides made so far on this journey and I trust that they will strengthen tranquility and concord.
Here are 7 more key statements from the two addresses:
~ As we see from the earliest history of the Church in these lands, a living faith in Jesus is “contagious”; it can change the world.
~ Every effort made to build bridges between ecclesial, parish and diocesan communities and institutions will serve as a prophetic gesture on the part of the Church in Iraq and a fruitful response to Jesus’ prayer that all may be one.
~ Be pastors, servants of the people, not civil servants. Ever a part of the people of God, never apart, as though you were a privileged class. Do not renounce that noble lineage which is the holy people of God.
~ This [pandemic] crisis calls for concerted efforts by all to take necessary steps, including an equitable distribution of vaccines for everyone. But this is not enough: This crisis is above all a summons to “rethink our styles of life… and the meaning of our existence.”
~ Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family, will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world. In this regard, the religious, cultural and ethnic diversity that has been a hallmark of Iraqi society for millennia is a precious resource on which to draw, not an obstacle to be eliminated.
~ Religion, by its very nature, must be at the service of peace and fraternity. The name of God cannot be used “to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression” (Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019). On the contrary, God, who created human beings equal in dignity and rights, calls us to spread the values of love, good will and concord.
~ The age-old presence of Christians in this land, and their contributions to the life of the nation, constitute a rich heritage that they wish to continue to place at the service of all.