Francis’ trip was intended to underscore the tragic cost of failing to achieve this fraternity. On Sunday he visited Mosul, once the capital of the Islamic State Caliphate and now a destroyed memorial to the group’s destruction. Buildings and churches were reduced to rubble, families decimated and traumatized, a once lively Christian population that had long since disappeared.
The ruins he said left him “speechless” adding that when he stood in front of the wiped out Catholic Church, as well as other destroyed churches and mosques, he thought “I couldn’t believe” that such atrocities existed.
Francis, who made mercy a cornerstone of his pontificate, said what moved him the most were comments made by a woman in Qaraqosh, the northern Iraqi city with the largest Christian population in the country, who talked about how she treated her children the Islamists had lost the state, but had nonetheless asked for forgiveness for the militants.
The Vatican was very pleased with Francis’ trip, during which he made bold symbolic gestures for brotherhood between religions, but also took concrete action, including a statement by Ayatollah Sistani in support of Iraqi Christians.
Still, the question arises whether the Pope’s trip will have real and lasting effects.
“You don’t solve the problems of a country like Iraq overnight and with a little ecumenism,” said Archbishop Gallagher. “It is a significant contribution” in which the Pope “did something, it worked, it overcame many obstacles and I think it sends a strong message,” he said.
“In a very spiritual dimension,” added Archbishop Gallagher, the Pope says: “No, we should not just give up our responsibility or our contribution. We can all do something. “
When asked when he would return to the public audience with pilgrims in Rome, he suggested following the health guidelines of Italy, which the Vatican generally follows.