.- After the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father exhorted the international community to do “everything possible” to give Iraqis a future of “reconciliation and justice." His words against anti-Christian violence in Iraq were well received by Iraqi demonstrators in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Benedict XVI related the "profound sadness" he felt upon learning of the killings of Christians in Mosul last week. He added that he has followed the violent events perpetrated against unarmed victims with "great preoccupation."
The pontiff said that during the "intense meditation" of the spiritual exercises of the last week he prayed often for the victims.
"Today, I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayer for peace and for the restoration of security, promoted by the Council of Bishops of Nineveh," he added.
The bishops of the Syro-Catholic, Syro-Orthodox and Chaldean Churches in Mosul made a plea for government protection for Christians and religious minorities in a letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister this week.
The Holy Father said that he is "affectionately close" to the Christian community in Iraq and urged them to continue to be a positive force "for the nation to which, for centuries, you rightfully belong."
While calling for Iraqi civil authorities to make “every effort to return security to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities," he also expressed his hope that the authorities would not give in to the temptation "to make the temporary interests of a few prevail over the safety and fundamental rights of every citizen."
He closed by greeting a group of Iraqis demonstrating in St. Peter's Square, saying:
"I exhort the international community to do everything possible to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I invoke with trust in God omnipotent the precious gift of peace."
CNA spoke with Chorbishop Philip Najim, representative of the Chaldean Patriarchate to the Holy See, who joined the formidable group of Iraqis who advocated their cause in the presence of the Pope on Sunday.
He said that the purpose of the Iraqi presence in St. Peter’s Square today was to provide "another call to the conscience of the international community to be able to intervene, to protect and really defend the rights of man that... has a right to life which is a gift from God."
"We want to put an end, through the international community to these discriminations, these persecutions against the Christian communities in Iraq and the Middle East, especially the Middle East, and we want a peaceful life," Bishop Najim added.
Iraqi priests studying and working in Rome turned out for the Angelus with flags and banners in hand. "Liberty, Equality, Peace" read one of their banners, black letters on a white background. "Iraqi Christians need an urgent International Intervention" read another.
Peaceful protests were held in Christian-populated cities across the Plain of Nineveh on Sunday. These cities and villages have received a number of refugees in recent days, fleeing the violence in Mosul.
Another protest has been organized for Monday by the Iraqi community of Paris.