Nuncio in Iraq: Iraq has a special place in the pope’s heart

“The pope’s words make Iraqi Christians feel accompanied,” Alberto Ortega assured.

This is the statue of the Heavenly Mother of the Batnaya parish. Her hands were cut off, she was decapitated and later shot at. She is a symbol of the genocide that Iraqi Christians have suffered at the hands of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. It is also a symbol that terrorists could destroy the statues, but not the faith.

MSGR. ALBERTO ORTEGA MARTÍN, Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan and Iraq
“Witnessing the presence of these Christians who have lost everything, just to maintain the faith, is a great gift for me and truly inspiring. To see these Christians, who speak of reconciliation and forgive, is spectacular. It’s inspiring to watch how – and the patriarch has also done it – they worked with Caritas to bring food to those who evicted them from their houses.”

The country’s nuncio and the Chaldean patriarch participated in a meeting in Rome discussing a plan to reconstruct the Nineveh Plain, where the jihadists inflicted their genocide against Christians and Yazidis three years ago.

The crime was denounced from the beginning by Pope Francis, who asked for an intervention to protect the innocent victims.

MSGR. ALBERTO ORTEGA MARTIN, Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan and Iraq
“The pope follows everything with a lot of attention. He is very close to Iraq, very close to the Christians and the Iraqi population. Truly, the region has a special place in the pope’s heart. His words and gestures have a very positive impact on the people of Iraq, they feel accompanied.”

However, it too early to talk about a papal visit to Iraq, since it lacks the necessary safety conditions for public events. However, the Iraqis feel the pope’s concern for them and still maintain the hope that living in peace on their own land is possible.

LUIS RAPHAEL SAKO, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church
“I always say, ‘Before rebuilding houses and stones, humanity needs to be rebuilt. I believe a minimum hope exists to start rebuilding and renew the faith among the population once again. People aren’t evil and not all Muslims are ISIS. That must be understood.”

Things have always been difficult for Iraqi Christians and more so in recent years. In the 1990s, there were more than 1.5 million Christians in the country. Today, there are less than 300,000.

The constant wars and radicalization of many Muslims have pushed them to search for a peaceful future far from their borders. However, despite the attacks, they have never taken up arms or looked for revenge. They are aware that their presence in the Middle East is more than that; it is a genuine mission destined to place harmony where there only seems to be hate.