Pope Francis called for dialogue and cooperation between neighboring nations and appealed for restraint against any actions that could escalate tensions in the Middle East.
Twenty years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq started and six years after Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State, whose attacks started in 2014, the country’s religious minorities are still trying to surmount challenges.
Perhaps the most authoritative Catholic voice in Iraq has argued that the survival of Christianity in the country depends on the creation of a secular state where all forms of sectarianism are eradicated, allowing the nation to become an example of respectful coexistence for the Middle East.
Despite renewed security concerns after a series of recent terrorist attacks, one of Iraq’s top prelates has said preparations for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit are still underway, calling it a sign of hope that peace is possible in the war-torn nation.
The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church issued a petition on Jan.14 calling on Iraqi Catholics to pray at Sunday Masses that Pope Francis will be able to visit their country for the upcoming papal trip in March.
In a move some have said is already a direct result of Pope Francis’ highly anticipated visit to the country in March, Iraqi parliament earlier this week voted to establish Christmas as an annual national holiday.