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The pebble and the 'colomba'

· An interview with Cardinal Fernando Filoni on returning from his mission to Iraq ·

“The Church that Francis wants is open and close to the suffering. This is why the Pope was very glad that we could be present among Iraqi refugees during Holy Week”. Upon returning from his mission to Iraq, Cardinal Fernando Filloni was received on Tuesday evening at the Casa Santa Marta by the Pontiff, with whom he shared his impressions of what he considers to have been above all a pilgrimage: each place he visited, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples explained, “was one of the Stations of the Cross, which these people are living every day”.

What were the key stops on the journey?

I spent Palm Sunday in Amman, Jordan; then I transferred to Baghdad, Iraq. But I spent most of my time in the north, in the areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, celebrating Easter rites and meeting with families – not only Christian – fleeing the violence of the so-called Islamic State, and [meeting with] the religious and institutional authorities involved in receiving them.

Did you also bring concrete signs of solidarity?

There is a little Arabic proverb that says: when you go to visit, if due to poverty you have nothing else, at least bring a pebble. From this perspective we involved the Pope's diocese in an experience in which a family in Rome offered a small gift – in this case an Easter colomba [a traditional cake], a symbol of peace and good, but also of sharing – to a family in Iraq.

What expectations do Iraqi families have today?

They all expect to be able to return to their homes, to their villages. It doesn't matter to them if they should find destruction and plundering, rebuilding doesn't scare them. And we are ready to help them start over. I did not find anyone who had the intention of leaving Iraq.

Gianluca Biccini

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 22, 2017

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