Barham Salih handed the Chaldean primate the official invitation letter inviting the pontiff yesterday. The country is the "cradle of civilisation" and he "birthplace of Abraham, father of the faithful". The presence of Pope Francis will be a "milestone" in the healing process after jihadist violence. His words are a source of encouragement and comfort.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' visit will bring "immense comfort" to everybody in Iraq, as people recover from the devastation caused by four years under the Islamic State (IS) group, and anti-minority persecution, including Christians, says Iraqi President Barham Salih in his letter to the pontiff given to the Chaldean Primate Card Louis Raphael Sako (pictured).
The cardinal, accompanied by the Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Mgr Basil Yaldo, met the Iraqi president yesterday at the Peace Palace in the Iraqi capital, and received the official invitation.
"I am honoured to officially extend an invitation to Your Holiness to visit Iraq -- the cradle of civilisation and the birthplace of Abraham, the father of the faithful and messenger of the divine religions," reads the letter.
"Your holiness' visit will be an opportunity to remind and enlighten Iraq and the world that this land gave humanity its first laws, irrigated agriculture and a legacy of cooperation among people" of different religions, it says.
Salih says he hopes the visit will be "a milestone in the healing process and Iraq can once more be a peaceful land where the mosaic of religions and faiths can live together in harmony again as they did for millennia" before the US invasion of 2003 and the rise of Jihadism.
“Over the last four years Iraq has been a place of war and immense suffering,” Salih adds. “The most recent onslaught by terrorist groups has brought unimaginable destruction to Christians and other Iraqi communities.”
“With the liberation of our land comes the long process of healing, reconciliation and rebuilding. As your Holiness has always shown a deep care and concern for the vulnerable and suffering, I know that your words of encouragement and grace will be of immense comfort to the many Iraqis who are still recovering from the hardships of conflict”.
The pope, the president says, will be welcomed not only Christians "but also Muslims, Yazidis and people of faith, who are bound by a commitment to a better future based on the values of peace and dignity".
“Iraq has been home to a vibrant and diverse Christian community for nearly two thousand years. While recent wars have depleted their numbers, we are committed to ensuring that Iraq’s Christians can once again enjoy security and prosperity,” he adds.
Pope Francis announced his intention to visit the country in early June, during the 92nd plenary assembly of ROACO (Riunione Opere Aiuto Chiese Orientali, Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches).
"I think constantly of Iraq – where I want to go next year,” said the pontiff. As Card Sako notes, the visit will be the source of "great joy and emotion", a event hundreds of thousands of refugees from Mosul and the plain of Nineveh are waiting for impatiently.
Thanking the Iraqi president for the invitation, the Chaldean primate stressed his role in supporting Christians and his effort in a perspective of "unity" between the country’s various groups.