young people and in the vivacious eyes of the elderly,” he commented.
“People stood waiting for the Pope for five hours, even women with children in their arms. They waited and there was hope in their eyes.”
“The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace; they have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them.”
The pope lamented that war had devastated the historic capital city of Baghdad, which once housed one of the world’s great libraries.
He said: “War is always that monster that transforms itself with the change of epochs and continues to devour humanity. But the response to war is not another war; the response to weapons is not other weapons.”
“And I asked myself: who was selling the weapons to the terrorists? Who sells weapons today to the terrorists -- which are causing massacres in other areas, let’s think of Africa, for example? It is a question that I would like someone to answer.”
He said that the challenge for Iraq -- and other war-torn countries -- was to build fraternity.
“For this reason, we met and we prayed with Christians and Muslims, with representatives of other religions, in Ur, where Abraham received God’s call about 4,00 years ago,” he said.
He said that the message of fraternity also resounded during his visit to the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, where 48 people were slaughtered during a terrorist attack in 2010.
“The Church in Iraq is a martyr-Church. And in that church that bears an inscription in stone the memory of those martyrs, joy resounded in that encounter. My amazement at being in their midst mingled with their joy at having the pope among them,” he said.
Pope Francis noted that he took his call to fraternity also to northern Iraq, to Mosul and Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh).
(Story continues below)
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The ISIS occupation caused thousands and thousands of inhabitants to flee, among them many Christians of a variety of confessions and other persecuted minorities, especially the Yazidi,” he said.
Addressing Iraqis who fled the country, he said: “You have left everything, like Abraham; like him, keep the faith and hope. Be weavers of friendship and of fraternity wherever you are. And if you can, return.”
He said that the message of fraternity was also evident in the trip’s two public Masses, in Baghdad and Erbil.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he concluded, “let us praise God for this historic Visit and let us continue to pray for that land and for the Middle East.”
“In Iraq, despite the roar of destruction and weapons, the palm, a symbol of the country and of its hope, has continued to grow and bear fruit.”
“So it is for fraternity: like the fruit of the palm, it does not make noise, but the palm is fruitful and grows. May God, who is peace, grant a future of fraternity to Iraq, the Middle East and the entire world!”