Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq could ‘give hope’
Old houses in Betnaya, northern Iraq, did not survive the bombings (photo: Maurice Page)
Faraj Benoit Camurat, president of the Fraternity with Iraq association, said Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq will bring “very powerful results for the spiritual upliftment of Christians in Iraq.” Questioned by the I.MEDIA press agency on June 11, 2019, he reacted the next day when Pope Francis expressed his intention to visit the country.
Invited by the local government as well as by the local Church, Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his desire to visit Iraq, a country destabilized for many years in which a large part of the territory – in particular the Christian areas – has was overrun by State Groups between 2014 and 2017. However, as Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said after his visit in January, the security situation is not sufficient to make such a trip.
Yet, on June 10, Pope Francis announced that he would like to visit Iraq in 2020. If that’s not an official statement, it’s also very inspiring. “We were surprised by the news,” said Father Pascal Gollnisch, managing director of Eastern Action, wondering if it was due to “a fervent enthusiasm or a specific program?”
For his part, Faraj Benoit Camurat explained: “This announcement will have a very powerful effect in boosting the morale of Christians in Iraq and encouraging those who are reluctant to return home. Iraq is one of the oldest places to have a Christian presence, but the country has been badly affected by the exodus of Christians: in 2003 there were around 1.5 million ww Christians during the invasion American, now they are between 250,000 and 300,000 people. According to the director of Eastern Action, the pope’s trip will “strengthen the sense of the Christian presence in Iraq”.
A “new page” for Iraq
Mr. Loys de Pampelonne, local director of Action Est, was delighted that if this trip were made, it would bring hope to Christians. After an encouraging trip by Cardinal Parolin last Christmas, the pope’s trip “will breathe a little hope and express concrete support for the Christian community here”.
Father Gollnisch pointed out that Pope Francis often expresses his pain to Christians.
Mr. Faraj Benoyt Camurat continued, such a trip will be an opportunity to write a new page in the history of a country at peace with itself. The announcement of the trip comes at a time when the Iraqi people are realizing that peace after ISIS “is not a peace for granted”.
The wheat fields had just been burned as a test of ‘endless destruction’. According to Father Gollnisch, Pope Francis’ trip will serve the country “by affirming its identity and its independence, by pleading for a policy of integration, the only way for the future of Iraq”.