2014-12-06 16:52:00

Pope to Iraqi Refugees: "I am close to you all in these moments of trial"

(Vatican Radio) “You are the rod of God today!” A rod that is “bent down by ferocious winds, but does not break”. These were the words of Pope Francis today, in a video message sent to Christians in the Middle East. The Holy Father sent the message through Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon [France], who is in Erbil, Iraq for a two-day visit.

Listen to Junno Arocho's report:

The delegation, which was welcomed by Chaldean Patriarch, Louis Raphaël I Sako, included more than 100 volunteers. The purpose of the visit is twofold: to convey the Church’s closeness to Christians in Iraq and to ensure the organization of humanitarian aid to the region.

In his message, Pope Francis said that Cardinal Barbarin brings “the concern and love of the whole Church”.  

“I also would like to be there,” he said, “but since I cannot travel, I do so like this…I am very close to you all in these moments of trial.

Recalling his recent visit to Turkey, the Pope reiterated his sentiments that Christians are being thrown out from the Middle East. Encouraging those persecuted, the Holy Father thanked them for their witness of suffering for their faith.

The 77 year old Pontiff expressed his continuing concern over the “inhumane violence” against Christians and Yazidis by extremist groups, such as the Islamic State. He also lamented the destruction of religious monuments, churches and cultural patrimonies that erase “every trace, every memory”. The Pope urged religious leaders to act, saying “we have the obligation to denounce all violations against dignity and human rights.

The Pope recalled St. Therese of the Child Jesus who said that she and the Church were like rod that while bending during a strong storm, does not break.

Concluding his message, the Pope assured the Iraqi refugees that they were in his heart and prayers. He also called on Christians around the world to pray for them on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Your resilience is a martyrdom,” he concluded, “a dew that bears fruit. I ask that you pray for me, may the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you.”

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