Pope Francis has thanked the people of Iraq for allowing him to make his historic trip to the country, saying Iraqis deserve to live in peace.
In his weekly audience, the 84-year-old pope reflected on the packed three-day programme that saw him travel throughout Iraq last weekend, offering encouragement to persecuted Christians and extending a hand to Shiite Muslims.
According to Channels TV reports, he said: “After this visit, my soul is filled with gratitude — gratitude to God and to all those who made it possible”, citing political and religious leaders including top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, “with whom I had an unforgettable meeting”.
The Pope said he heard first-hand of “wounds still open” from the destruction wrought on Iraq’s Christian communities, which have been decimated after decades of conflict; adding that “the Iraqi people have the right to live in peace. They have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them.”
He condemned the “monster” of war, adding that: “I ask myself, who sells arms to terrorists? Today, who sells them to terrorists?; but he noted that Iraqis “are trying hard to rebuild. The Muslims are inviting the Christians to return and together they are restoring churches and mosques. Fraternity is there”.