Pope Francis encourages Iraqi Christians that "God and HIs Son" and not death has "the last word" during his visit in the Qaraqosh Community on the third day of his Apostolic Journey in Iraq last Sunday.
According to the transcript of his message posted in the Vatican website, Pope Francis acknowledged the great sadness seen in the signs left over by the ISIS militia sweep of 2014 that left the Qaraqosh Community in rubble.
"We look around and see other signs, signs of the destructive power of violence, hatred and war. How much has been torn down! How much needs to be rebuilt! Our gathering here today shows that terrorism and death never have the last word. The last word belongs to God and to his Son, the conqueror of sin and death. Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death," he said to those gathered a the Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh.
The Pope put on spotlight the example left behind by the "fathers and mothers in faith" of the Iraqi Christians who "persevered with unwavering hope" during their earthly journey and left "a great spiritual legacy" that should as their source of strength to "rebuild and to start afresh" their communities.
"You are not alone! The entire Church is close to you, with prayers and concrete charity. And in this region, so many people opened their doors to you in time of need," he stressed. "This is the time to restore not just buildings but also the bonds of community that unite communities and families, the young and the old together."
He revealed that the "darkest days of the war" are the days "Jesus is by" their side and, as such, further encouraged Iraqi Christians to never stop dreaming and to never give up.
"From heaven the saints are watching over us. Let us pray to them and never tire of begging their intercession. There are also the saints next-door, "who, living in our midst, reflect God's presence," he added, "This land has many of them, because it is a land of many holy men and women. Let them accompany you to a better future, a future of hope."
According to the Pope's itinerary for the Apostolic Journey in Iraq, the visit to the Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh is his third stop for the day before he transferred to Erbil for the Holy Mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium.
The Pope came to Erbil that early morning on Sunday from Baghdad for a welcome ceremony held at the Erbil Airport that was led by the President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan. He also had a meeting with the President and Prime Minister of the Autonomous Region at the Presidential VIP Lounge of the airport.
From Baghdad, the Pope went via helicopter to Mosul's Hosh al-Bieaa where he led the Prayer of Suffrage for the Victims of War before going by helicopter to Qaraqosh. The Pope introduced the prayer prior to its invocation as a means to "reaffirm" the "conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more poweful than hatred, that peace is more powerful than war."
He likened the victims of war in the City of Mosul, in all of Iraq, and in the entire Middle East as a small thread that's torn away from a "richly diverse cultural and religious fabric" that weakens the entire fabric when it is lost.
He called on to the Iraqi Christians in Mosul to appreciate and nurture the fraternal relationship with Muslims there for it is a sign that "hope in reconciliation and new life" is possible. He challenged the Christian community to "return to Mosul and to take up their vital role in the process of healing and renewal."
The Pope arrived in Iraq on March 5 at the Baghadad International Airport where he was met by the Prime Minister and taken to the Presidential Palace for the official welcome ceremony. As per the Christian Post, the Pope's visit included meeting with Iraq's top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistaniin the holy city of Najaf and a visit to Abraham's birth place in the city of Ur.
The Pope's Apostolic Journey, described as a historical event, is meant to be a "pilgrimage of peace" aimed in restoring hope among Christians in Iraq. The Pope left Iraq on March 8 with a farewell ceremony at the Baghdad Airport.