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Pope: Christians in Iraq need 'ability to forgive'

Pope: Christians in Iraq need 'ability to forgive'
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In his first visit to Iraq, Pope FrancisPope FrancisUS Catholic bishops join the culture wars The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Move by Catholic bishops against Biden brings howls of hypocrisy MORE urged Christian communities targeted for extermination by the Islamic State (IS) to practice forgiveness.

“The road to a full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to grow discouraged. What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up,” the pontiff said in remarks at a church in the northern city of Qaraqosh, according to The Associated Press.

The city’s predominantly Syriac Catholic population fled after the terrorist group took control in 2014, but began returning after Iraqi and Kurdish forces liberated it in 2016. The church, defaced by IS forces, has been heavily renovated since they were driven out.

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In remarks in Mosul, the region’s biggest city, Francis lamented the group’s attacks on houses of worship and acts of genocide against Christians, other Muslims and Yazidis.

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow,” he said, according to the AP, “with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis — who were cruelly annihilated by terrorism — and others forcibly displaced or killed.”

“Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war,” he added.

The Rev. Raed Kallo, one of a handful of Iraqi Christians to return to Mosul after IS forces were routed, shared the stage with Francis, expressing gratitude to “my Muslim brothers” for “receiv[ing] me after the liberation of the city with great hospitality and love.”

Kallo added that while his congregation is less than one-fifth the size it was before IS took over the city, “today I live among 2 million Muslims who call me their Father Raed.”