The Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni says he is going to Iraq to express Pope Francis’ closeness with the beleaguered Christians fleeing violence there. Tracey McClure reports.
Deeply concerned about the welfare of Christians and other religious minorities forced to flee the upsurge in violence in Iraq, Pope Francis recently named Cardinal Filoni as his personal envoy to the war-torn country. The former Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq during the Gulf war from 2001 to 2006 was expected to leave Rome Monday, bringing a papal donation to help meet the most urgent needs of Iraq’s latest displaced people. The two men discussed details of Cardinal Filoni’s imminent trip in a meeting Sunday at the Pope’s residence in the Vatican.
In brief comments to Vatican television’s CTV, Cardinal Filoni described the situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq as one of “persecution” from which perhaps one million displaced people are seeking safe haven.
The Holy Father, he says, “would have liked to have been himself (in Iraq) amongst these poor people.” Cardinal Filoni adds that he intends to share with them the Pope’s “affection and profound love” for them.
He notes that many Iraqi Christians feel that they have no future in their own country but points out that Iraq has traditionally been a welcoming nation where for “hundreds and hundreds of years, minorities and majorities have lived together and so it truly would be a shame if today they were to lose this richness.”
Cardinal Filoni describes his mission as one of “encouragement,” to bring to the Iraqi faithful the Pope’s “hope and spiritual, moral and psychological” support. The Cardinal will be liaising with local authorities to see that everything possible is done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Iraq’s Christian minority. Christians there, Cardinal Filoni concludes, must feel that the Universal Church has not abandoned them but considers them “precious in this land,” and that they “must still have faith in themselves and in the relations they can establish with others.”
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