Pope Francis ended his historic tour of Iraq on Monday, departing by plane from Baghdad after visiting conflict-torn cities, meeting Muslim and Christian leaders and preaching peace and coexistence over war.
Pope Francis visits Armenian Orthodox church in Mosul during historic tour of Iraq
STEPANAKERT, MARCH 9 , ARTSAKHPRESS: During his trip, the first ever papal visit to Iraq, Francis toured four cities, including Mosul, the former ISIS stronghold where vast areas still lie in ruins, Panorama reports.
As Catholic Philly reports, in the northern city of Mosul, Francis prayed in a square containing the remnants of four churches — Syriac Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean — nearly destroyed in the war to oust ISIS from the city.
Pope Francis listened to the stories of Christians forced to flee, the fear many have to return and the encouragement of Muslim neighbors committed to making the city a thriving, multicultural metropolis again.
It is noted that the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces battered the city but the biggest, most horrifying blow came in early June 2014 when militants of the Islamic State group launched an offensive. They controlled the city for three years, terrorizing the population, executing hundreds and kidnapping, raping and selling women. They blew up major landmarks, both Muslim and Christian. They destroyed libraries and museums and tens of thousands of lives.
Later, in the Christian town of Qaraqosh, where an entire Christian community was forced out by the brutality of ISIS militants, Francis urged Christians to forgive their oppressors and rebuild their lives.