During the meeting with the pope, FOCSIV's president Ivana Borsotto said: "We are in your presence because in recent years we have saved and restored in Italy, thanks to the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, this 'refugee book' -- a sacred book of the Syriac-Christian Church of Iraq, one of the oldest manuscripts preserved in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the city of Qaraqosh in the Nineveh Plains."
"Today we are happy to return it symbolically into the hands of His Holiness to return it to its home, to its Church in that tormented land, as a sign of peace, of brotherhood," she said.
A spokesperson for FOCSIV told CNA that the organization hopes that the pope will be able to bring this book with him during his apostolic visit to Iraq next month, but cannot say at this time if it will be possible.
"We believe that in bringing Kurdistan refugees back home to their cities of origin, as part of the action of development cooperation and international solidarity, it is also necessary to rediscover the common cultural roots, those that over the centuries have woven a history of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in this area," Borsotto said after the audience.
"This allows for the recreation of the conditions that can lead the population to a cohesive and peaceful new collective and community life, especially for these people for whom the long period of occupation, violence, war, and ideological conditioning has deeply affected their hearts."
"It is up to the projects of cultural cooperation, education, training to rediscover their traditions and the millenary culture of acceptance and tolerance of the entire Middle East."
Borsotto added that although the final pages of the manuscript remain badly damaged, the prayers it contains "will continue to mark the liturgical year in Aramaic and still be sung by the people of the Nineveh Plains, reminding everyone that another future is still possible."
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.