Thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by violence, conflict and poverty Thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by violence, conflict and poverty 

Pope’s visit to Iraq helping replace walls with bridges

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in Iraq helping Iraqis affected by conflict and supporting religious leaders and communities rebuild trust. CRS country representative says the Pope’s visit is a precious occasion in more than one respect.

By Linda Bordoni   

Since 2014, Catholic Relief Services has helped more than 350,000 Iraqis affected by war and violence. Work has included education, livelihoods, and shelter. The organization also supports religious leaders, communities and youth groups to work together to rebuild the trust damaged by years of violence.

Speaking to Vatican News’ Massimiliano Menichetti in Baghdad, CRS country representative Davide Bernocchi said Pope Francis’s message is being received by the people with much joy. It is also, he addeda precious opportunity to draw international attention to a country that has suffered much and needs support.

Listen to the interview with Davide Bernocchi

The Pope’s visit “is the perfect occasion to show the world that Iraq still has needs, that the world must not forget it during this difficult time, ” said Bernocchi, expressing relief the ISIS experience is over in the country.

Displaced persons and economic crisis

However, he said Iraq still has major issues: “1.2 million people are still displaced, almost 5 million people have just got back to areas that are not yet adapted to welcome back such a huge population.” 

Bernocchi explained that a worsening economic crisis due to the fluctuation of the oil price is also pushing many into poverty and depriving the government of the means to help its people.

Human fraternity

Regarding the theme of the Pope’s visit, “You are all brothers” and his powerful message of Human Fraternity, Bernocchi said it is “an extremely important message for this country at this time.”

He noted that Iraq in the past decades has suffered ethnic, sectarian and political divides that have put the social fabric under a lot of stress. “At this point it is essential, to find again the dimension of a common, or shared identity,” that all Iraqis belong to the same national community. This message, he said, shows us the way forward. 

It is also an occasion for the Pope, he continued, “to gently push the people and the local Churches out of their comfort zones in the sense that in the last decades each community has probably felt the need to protect themselves from others, and so they have built walls.”

Pope Francis’ message, Bernocchi concluded, is an invitation to replace “those walls with bridges in order to rebuild the country together.”

06 March 2021, 16:20