The suffering of the people in Syria and Iraq is among “the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades,” Pope Francis said at a September 17 audience.
In an address to a conference organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, bringing together representatives of Catholic charitable groups working in the Middle East, the Pope decried the continued bloodshed in Syria and Iraq. He said that “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.”
Because of worldwide media coverage, the Pope remarked, the “atrocities and unspeakable human rights violations which characterize these conflicts are transmitted live.” Consequently, he added: “No one can pretend not to know!”
Without specifically naming the Islamic State, the Pope said that “the very legitimacy of the presence of Christians and other religious minorities is denied in the name of a violent fundamentalism claiming to be based on religion.” He expressed his horror at the suffering endured by persecuted Christians, and his concern that the ancient Christian presence in those lands is now jeopardized.
At a separate public audience on the same day, the Pope revealed that he carries the cross of a priest who was killed in Iraq. Speaking to young religious, the Holy Father disclosed that he was recently given a small cross “that a priest held in his hand as he was beheaded for his refused to deny Jesus.” Gesturing toward his chest, the Pope said: “I carry this cross with me here.”