Here, Pope Francis is driving through the ruins of Mosul, which was destroyed by the IS terrorist group a few years ago.
The 84-year-old leader of the Catholic Church began a trip to northern Iraq on Sunday to visit the Kurdish regional capital, Orbil, where he was welcomed by President Nechirwan Barzani.
From there, it continued its journey to Mosul by helicopter, where IS announced in 2014 that it was setting up its “caliphate”. There, the pope conducted a prayer for the victims.
Before the US invasion in 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, but today only 250,000 to 400,000 of the 40 million population remain.
“The fact that Christians are leaving Iraq and the Middle East is causing irreparable damage, not only to individuals, but also to the community they are leaving,” Pope Al-Tahera said in a speech in the ruins of the church.
See how the Pope received it:
Was forced to flee
IS is planning to leave the province of Nineveh, where the majority of Iraqi Christians live.
Among the fugitives was Reid Gallo, the only surviving priest in Mosul today. He shared his story with the Pope on Sunday.
The church in Gallos used to have 500 Christian families, but today there are only about 70 Christian families in the city.
Gallo stressed that the Muslim residents of Mosul welcomed the Christians with open arms while waiting to return after the defeat of IS.
“After the city was liberated, my Muslim brothers welcomed me with great hospitality and affection,” he said.
VG on Pope’s visit: “Gives hope in a critical time”
See more photos of the Pope’s historic trip to Iraq here:
After arriving in Mosul, the Pope proceeded to Caracas by helicopter, also known as Hamdania and Bhaktida, a city of great symbolic significance because it was formerly the largest Christian city in Iraq.
Many people still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Karagosh was largely destroyed by IS, but has been partially rebuilt in recent years.
– Priest George Jahoula said before the pope ‘s helicopter landed that this important visit would strengthen our morale after many years of difficulties, problems and wars.
Also read: Pope meets Shiite leaders in Iraq
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