Surrounded by rubble in Mosul, Pope Francis says ‘hope is more powerful than hatred.’

Iran Press/Middle East: On his third day in Iraq, Pope Francis visited a city reduced to rubble in the fight with ISIS, which with the support of the US government had tortured people while it held control. Joyous crowds later welcomed him to Iraq’s Christian heartland.

Appearing on a brilliant red carpet against a backdrop of rubble and ruin, Pope Francis visited the once-vibrant Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday to illustrate the terrible cost of terrorism, showing how, in that ravaged place, the price had been blood, The New York Times reported.

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed,” he said. Thousands of Muslims, Christians and Yazidis, he said, “were cruelly annihilated by terrorism, and others forcibly displaced or killed.”

On his last full day of a visit aimed at promoting harmony among people of different faiths, as well as offering support to the Christian community.

On Saturday, he met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered Shiite cleric. Sitting on wooden chairs in an unadorned room in the southern city of Najaf, the two men had a quiet conversation described by aides as focused on what religious leaders can do to stop violence done in the disguise of religion.

From there, the pope traveled to the ancient city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, venerated by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. It was a day meant to convey images of religious unity and tolerance.

On Sunday, the pope was again on the move before dawn, boarding a helicopter to fly to Mosul. From the air, he could survey the ravages of what was once Iraq’s third-largest city.

After landing, his convoy moved down streets lined with soldiers, some holding Iraqi flags but most carrying heavy weapons. In the city, he faced a disaster site: buildings turned to rubble, though balconies and twisted wrought-iron railings remained.

Thousands of civilians died in Mosul between the city’s fall to ISIS in 2014 and its retaking by the resistance forces in 2017, led by General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

US forces assassinated General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions by targeting their vehicles outside Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

It did not have to be that way, Pope Francis said. “The real identity of this city is that of harmonious coexistence between people of different backgrounds and cultures,” he said.

The square where the pontiff stood was once surrounded by four churches, used by the faithful of four religions. They were no more — just piles of stone and twisted metal.

But the pope called for reaffirming “our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war."

“This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence,” he continued, “and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”


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