Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis offered his heartfelt gratitude to the local Church leaders in Erbil; to Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East; Christians of various denominations; Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda; and all the Bishops, the government and civil authorities, and the many volunteers for their great welcome and assistance.
His Greeting came at the conclusion of the Mass celebrated Sunday evening in the Erbil.
He heartily greeted the “beloved Kurdish people”, and paid tribute to all Christians of various traditions, many of whom shed their blood here. “Yet our martyrs shine together like stars in the same sky!” the Pope said; and “from there they call us to walk together, without hesitation, towards the fullness of unity.”
While many shared testimonies of sorrow and loss, the Pope noted as well the stories of “hope and conslation”, thanks especially to the "tireless charitable outreach" of religious institutions of every faith assisting in rebuilding and social rebirth. The Pope offered special thanks to the ROACO umbrella organization representing Catholic aid agencies.
“Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart”, the Pope said, and he encouraged everyone to “work together in unity for a future of peace and prosperity that leaves no one behind and discriminates against no one.” He assured them of his prayers and called on all people of good will to “work together to forge bonds of fraternity and solidarity in the service of the common good and of peace...May God bless you all! May God bless Iraq!”