- Exodus of biblical proportions
Hounded out of their homes by Islamist violence, Iraqi Christians face what many fear may be their final festive season in the land of their fathers as many prepare for exile
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Pope Francis’ personal envoy, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, has been dispatched to Iraq to take aid to thousands of Christians driven from their homes by terrorist fighters of the newly established Islamic State (IS).
Pope Francis dispatched Cardinal Filoni, who was papal nuncio to the country at the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq, on Friday, after expressing outrage at the increasing violence towards displaced Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. “Thousands of people, among them many Christians, banished brutally from their houses, children dying of hunger and thirst as they flee, women kidnapped, people massacred, violence of all kinds, destruction everywhere ... All of this deeply offends God and deeply offends humanity," he said on Sunday.
Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, is to travel from Amman in Jordan to Kurdistan and Baghdad, to distribute funds and to show the Pope's "spiritual support and the Church's solidarity with the people who are suffering," papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said.
Cardinal Filoni said Francis "would have liked to have gone himself among these poor people" and said the Pope had entrusted him with this task, so that they would know that the Church "has not abandoned them".
Meanwhile the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue today called on Muslim religious leaders to take an unequivocal stand against IS and against governments who fund terrorism.
In a statement issued today it unanimously condemn IS’s “barbarism”, which it said no religion could justify.
It warned that a failure to do so would call into question the credibility of “religions, their followers and their leaders”, as well as “the interfaith dialogue that has been patiently pursued in recent years”.
“Religious leaders … will not neglect to underline that supporting, financing and arming terrorists is morally condemnable,” it added.
Yesterday the Baghdad-based Chaldean Patriarch complained that the scope of US airstrikes being carried out against Islamic State [IS] militants across northern Iraq was too limited.
The patriarch urged US President Barack Obama to carry out airstrikes on militants in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, saying that the decision only to provide military assistance to Erbil, where 100,000 refugees have taken shelter, was “disappointing”.
The current nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, described the US airstrikes as “something that had to be done, otherwise [the IS] could not [be] stopped”.
Above: A man and three children flee violence in northern Iraq. Photo: CNS photo/Rodi Said, Reuters
Above: Pope Francis meets Cardinal Fernando Filoni at Vatican. Photo: CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters
Western countries have turned a blind eye to the cleansing of Mosul’s Christians 25 July 2014 by Robert Ewan