The pope said that the image of the deceased young boy “goes beyond a child who died in migration. It is a symbol of dying civilizations, which cannot survive. A symbol of humanity.”
The 84-year-old pope also noted that he had felt more tired during the Iraqi trip than on previous ones.
Recalling the final day of his trip, he said: “Yesterday, as we drove from Qaraqosh to Erbil, there were a lot of young people … many young people. And the question someone asked me was: ‘And these young people, what is their future? Where will they go?’ And many will have to leave the country, many.”
About 60% of Iraqi’s population is under the age of 25. The unemployment rate for young people in Iraq is estimated to be 36%, with low oil prices, government waste, and corruption, and a poor security situation further hindering the country’s potential for economic growth.
The pope emphasized that migration must be “a double right” with a “right to not to emigrate and a right to emigrate.”
“But these people do not have either,” he added.
The Christian population in Iraq has been steadily dwindling for decades, from around 1.4 million in 2003 to around 250,000 Christians in the country.
“Urgent measures are needed to ensure that people have jobs in their place and do not need to emigrate. And also measures to safeguard the right to emigrate,” the pope said.
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to countries that have welcomed refugees and migrants, mentioning Lebanon and Jordan in particular.
The pope revealed that Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch, had asked him to add a stop in the country’s capital, Beirut, on his Iraq visit.
(Story continues below)
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But Francis said that he had decided not to because he felt the country deserved a more substantial visit.
“I wrote a letter and made a promise to make a trip to Lebanon,” the pope said.
The photos within this story are from Pope Francis' visit to Mosul and Qaraqosh March 7, 2021. Photo Credits: Vatican Media and Colmn Flynn/EWTN.