Currents News Staff
Pope Francis arrived in Mosul, the city ISIS destroyed and occupied for three years. From the car he could see the ruins of the destroyed churches. He was greeted by olive branches and flower petals in the church square of Hosh al-Bieaa.
Amidst the ruins of the Syro-Catholic, Armenian-Orthodox, Syro-Orthodox and Chaldean churches, Pope Francis prayed for victims of ISIS.
Father Raid is one of those who witnessed the tragedy. He was the only Syro-Catholic priest who returned to rebuild his parish. He left in June of 2014 with 500 families from his parish. Most of them emigrated and are still afraid to return.
Today in Mosul there are no more than 70 Christian families left, compared to the two million Muslims with whom they coexist.
“Another beautiful example is the invitation to the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in the mosque of Rashan,” Father Raid said. “This is the first time a priest is invited to this kind of ceremony in a mosque. In that same mosque ISIS read the document announcing the expulsion of Christians in 2014.”
The Holy Father lamented the forced displacement and murder of so many people, as well as the destruction of ancient worship sites, in the cradle of civilization.
“Fraternity is stronger than fratricide,” Pope Francis said. “Hope is more powerful than death. Peace is more powerful than war. This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it can never be drowned by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God while pursuing paths of destruction.”
In the vicinity of the ruins of the Church of the Annunciation, Pope Francis inaugurated this memorial stone remembering the victims of the violence in Mosul.
Lastly, this white dove was released as a sign of peace and renewal. For many Iraqis, it represents that where once there was death, the pontiff brings life.