On Sunday, March 7, on the third day of his apostolic visit to Iraq, Pope Francis journeyed to the north of the country, which saw great devastation and intense persecution of Christians during the 2014-2017 war with ISIS. He visited the city of Mosul, which was a stronghold of ISIS during the war. Much of the city has been destroyed, including 30 Christian churches.
At Hosh al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul, surrounded by the obliterated remains for four churches, His Holiness prayed this prayer for the victims of war:
Prayer of Suffrage for the Victims of the War
Hosh al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul
Sunday, 7 March 2021
Address by Pope Francis before the prayer:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel for his kind words of welcome and I am especially grateful to Father Raid Kallo and Mr Gutayba Aagha for their moving testimonies.
Thank you very much, Father Raid. You told us of the forced displacement of many Christian families from their homes. The tragic diminution of Jesus’ disciples here and across the Middle East does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned but also to the society they leave behind. Indeed such a richly diverse cultural and religious fabric as this is weakened by the loss of any of its members, however small. As in one of your intricately designed carpets, one small thread torn away can damage the rest. Father, you told us of your fraternal relationship with Muslims after returning to Mosul. You were met with welcome, respect and cooperation. Thank you, Father, for having shared these signs that the Spirit is making blossom in the desert, and for showing us that it is possible to hope in reconciliation and new life.
Mr Aagha, you reminded us that the real identity of this city is that of harmonious coexistence between people of different backgrounds and cultures. I especially welcome, then, your invitation to the Christian community to return to Mosul and to take up their vital role in the process of healing and renewal.
Today all of us raise our voices in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict. Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident. How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, who were cruelly eliminated 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. This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence, and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.
Introduction by Pope Francis:
Before we pray in this city of Mosul for all the victims of war, in Iraq and in the entire Middle East, I would like to share with you these thoughts:
If God is the God of life – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his Name.
If God is the God of peace – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to wage war in his Name.
If God is the God of love – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.
Let us now join in praying for all the victims of war. May Almighty God grant them eternal life and unending peace, and welcome them into his fatherly embrace. Let us pray too for ourselves. May all of us – whatever our religious tradition – live in harmony and peace, conscious that in the eyes of God, we are all brothers and sisters.
Most High God, Lord of all ages, you created the world in love and never cease to shower your blessings upon your creatures. From beyond the sea of suffering and death, from beyond all temptations to violence, injustice and unjust gain, you accompany your sons and daughters with a Father’s tender love.
Yet we men and women, spurning your gifts and absorbed by all-too-worldly concerns have often forgotten your counsels of peace and harmony. We were concerned only with ourselves and our narrow interests. Indifferent to you and to others, we barred the door to peace. What the prophet Jonah heard said of Nineveh was repeated: the wickedness of men rose up to heaven (cf. Jonah
1:2). We did not lift pure hands to heaven (cf. 1 Tim
2:8), but from the earth there arose once more the cry of innocent blood (cf. Gen
4:10). In the Book of Jonah, the inhabitants of Nineveh heeded the words of your prophet and found salvation in repentance. Lord, we now entrust to you the many victims of man’s hatred for man. We too implore your forgiveness and beg the grace of repentance: Kyrie eleison! Kyrie eleison! Kyrie eleison!
(Brief moment of silence
Lord our God, in this city, we see two signs of the perennial human desire for closeness to you: the Al-Nouri Mosque, with its Al-Hadba minaret, and the Church of Our Lady of the Hour, whose clock for more than a century has reminded passersby that life is short and that time is precious. Teach us to realize that you have entrusted to us your plan of love, peace and reconciliation, and charged us to carry it out in our time, in the brief span of our earthly lives. Make us recognize that only in this way, by putting it into practice immediately, can this city and this country be rebuilt, and hearts torn by grief be healed. Help us not to pass our time in promoting our selfish concerns, whether as individuals or as groups, but in serving your loving plan. And whenever we go astray, grant that we may heed the voice of true men and women of God and repent in due time, lest we be once more overwhelmed by destruction and death.
To you we entrust all those whose span of earthly life was cut short by the violent hand of their brothers and sisters; we also pray to you for those who caused such harm to their brothers and sisters. May they repent, touched by the power of your mercy.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Text courtesy of Libreria Editrice Vaticana (click here for original source)
On March 7, 2021, during his apostolic visit to Iraq, Pope Francis visited the city of Mosul to pray for the victims of the war. Photo courtesy of Vatican Media.