İrem UZUN -TDO- Pope Francis has visited parts of northern Iraq that were held by Islamic State (IS) militants on the third day of his historic trip to the country. In Mosul he visited Church Square to pray for the victims of the war with the Islamic State, which left thousands of civilians dead. Surrounded by the tottering ruins of the square's four churches, he said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East had done "incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned but also to the society they leave behind".
The Pope was greeted by thousands in a sports stadium in Erbil who had gathered despite COVID-19. The stadium seats around 20,000, but large swathes of the stands were empty after authorities had trimmed down the allowed attendance in recent days. Iraqi leaders, along with some foreign dignitaries also attended.
Francis urged everyone to help those who are suffering and in need. Francis says that we must get our hands dirty, acting responsibly and not standing idly by, watching as our brothers and sisters suffer. He added, "It is clear that the church is alive, and that Christ is here among his holy people," going on to say, "This is one of the reasons why I felt compelled to visit you and thank you." Francis said, "Iraq will always remain in my heart and I ask all of you to work together for a future of peace and prosperity that excludes and discriminates against no one." He also said, "Here in Iraq, so many of your brothers, sisters, friends and fellow citizens bear the wounds of war and violence...and only God can heal these wounds."