Pope Francis takes to Twitter in appeal for Iraqi citizens

Pope Francis Credit Mazur catholicnewsorguk Pope Francis. | Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Since Friday Pope Francis has been tweeting three times a day asking faithful and parishes to pray and offer material support for those affected by violence in Iraq.

"I ask all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations," the first tweet from the Roman Pontiff read on Aug. 8.

Going from a sporadic tweet every two to three days this summer to a seemingly full-fledged campaign to raise awareness of the grave injustices currently happening in Iraq, Pope Francis' Twitter account, @Pontifex, has been riddled with messages urging support for persecuted Christians and other minorities since Friday, Aug. 8.

A second tweet on the Pope's Twitter account that day asked for readers to "Please take a moment today to pray for all those who have been forced from their homes in Iraq," and used the hashtag "#PrayForPeace."

The last tweet for Aug. 8 read "Lord, we pray that you sustain those who have been deprived of everything in Iraq. #prayforpeace."

His Aug. 8 social media appeals fell on the same day as his nomination of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq, in order to express the his "spiritual closeness to the people who suffer and to bring them the solidarity of the Church."

After speaking with Pope Francis briefly last night about his mission and tasks in Iraq, Cardinal Filoni departed from Rome earlier today with money for emergency aid in Iraq, according to an Aug. 11 statement from the Vatican.

Pope Francis' social media messages and the appointment of his envoy Aug. 8 follow an "urgent appeal" made to the international community the day before, which asked that "that a chorus of incessant prayer may rise from the whole Church to invoke the Holy Spirit for the gift of peace."

The pontiff asked that by "actively taking steps to end the humanitarian tragedy taking place, efforts be made to protect all those affected or threatened by violence." He also called for global support of displaced refugees who now depend entirely on the assistance of others. 

Continuing his international Twitter appeals the next day, the Bishop of Rome launched three new tweets Saturday, Aug. 9, the first asking "all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians."

In a second tweet that day, he urged "the international community to protect all those suffering violence in Iraq," and a few hours later re-introduced the "prayforpeace" hashtag in his tweet "Violence is not conquered by violence. Lord, send us the gift of peace. #prayforpeace."

On Sunday, Aug. 10, Pope Francis dedicated a large part of his Angelus address to in calling for peace in Iraq and Gaza, lamenting that in Iraq there are "children dying of hunger and thirst in their flight; women abducted; violence of every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies."

"All this gravely offends God and humanity," he told those gathered in St. Peter's Square. "Hatred is not to be carried out in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!"

In his first tweets launched that day, Pope Francis continued his appeals for global support, especially material assistance. 

His second Aug. 10 tweet read: "The news coming from Iraq pains me. Lord, teach us to live in solidarity with all those who suffer," while his third made an appeal to families, that "when you say your prayers, remember all those forced from their homes in Iraq. #PrayForPeace."

The relentless appeals from Roman Pontiff come in wake of increasing attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – known as ISIS – who took the country's largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, last Wednesday.

Qaraqosh is about 19 miles southeast of Mosul, which Islamic State forces captured in June, giving an ultimatum to Christians and other minorities demanding that they convert, pay the jizya tax or be killed.

Since the fall of Qqraqosh, thousands have fled the city, many taking with them nothing but the clothes on their backs, and have wandered on foot to surrounding towns where they are sleeping in parks or on the street.

Many of the minority Yazidi population, considered to be a pre-Islamic sect branching from Christianity and Judaism, fled to the mountains following ISIS' storming of Sinjar, where they have been stranded for days without access to food or water. Many, mostly children, have died of dehydration due to the desert's high temperatures.

On Aug. 7 U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a military and humanitarian operation to protect both U.S. personnel and Iraqi civilians against ISIS attacks.

Since then, U.S. military forces have made several airdrops of food and water to relieve those stranded on Mt. Sinjar, and have carried out numerous airstrikes on ISIS forces near the Iraqi capital of Irbil, where U.S. military advisers and consular personnel are stationed.

The Islamic State has been carrying out executions of those who don't share their radical interpretation of Sunni Islam, and have even beheaded their victims, including children, placing their heads on spikes to in order to instill terror in the population.


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