A people extraordinary under trial
· Pope Francis with his Personal Envoy to Iraq upon his return from the mission ·
Cardinal Filoni deeply moved by Christians’ witness of faith
Even in the difficult trial they are facing, Iraqi Christians are offering an extraordinary witness of faith to the Church and the world, a witness “deeply moving” for Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who has just returned from their country after completing his visit as Pope Francis’ Personal Envoy. The Cardinal met with the Pontiff on Thursday morning, 21 August, to report on the mission he had been entrusted with. He told L’Osservatore Romano at the end of the meeting that the Pope did more listening than speaking, as Cardinal Filoni recounted what he had seen and heard. The Cardinal shared his evaluation of the situation and how he had felt as he was close to this reality.
What impressions have you brought back from your trip to Iraq?
The mission that the Holy Father entrusted to me was to represent him in the country, in particular on a humanitarian mission to Christian refugees in the region of Kurdistan; and then to bring a message of solidarity to the Yazidi community, who at this time are being subjected to extremely violent persecution. This mission did me much good. Above all, the experience of being close to the suffering of so many people really helped me. Aside from the troubles, the difficulties, the traumas and worries, I also saw hope in them, above all in those families where there are many children and whose future is still uncertain.
What attitude did the political leaders assume toward you?
Everywhere I went, the civil authorities — both those of Iraq, the President of the Republic, and of Iraqi Kurdistan, the President and the Prime Minister — assured their closeness, their solidarity, their aid. Above all they told me they were totally committed to defending the Christians, saying that they want the Christians to return, because they are an integral part of the mosaic of their land and have a innate right to be there among them. And they recognized that they had come there after the Christians. This is a very good intention, but it must be translated into a concrete reality, where daily life very often becomes difficult for our Christians too.
What did you experience among the Christian communities of the country?
I found very beautiful communities, which truly bear a witness of extraordinary faith. When asked to renounce their faith or to accept small compromises and concessions with the Jihadists or others, these people chose to remain faithful to their Creed in the face of situations where it would have been easy to deceive those who asked, just in order to stay on their land. They chose to abandon everything, to lose everything, rather than the faith and the religious tradition that they have cherished for millennia. This, to me, is a faithfulness to be highlighted. These people, however, need to sense our solidarity, not only in words, or through offers of economic aid, but a solidarity which must first of all be ecclesial: their problems are not those of a people far away, who in the end do not affect us, do not concern us. Their wish is that we take on the responsibility of kindness, of closeness, of aid, of support which goes beyond material matters and beyond the words themselves. This is a task which, as Church, we must take on. They are brothers and sisters, displaced here and there, small communities, but I can attest that they have a wealth of faith, of tradition, of extraordinary love for the Pope and for their bishops. I was deeply moved by all of this.
In your opinion how will the situation develop?
I think that many developments have taken place. The very fact that the Holy Father wanted to send his Personal Representative has drawn the attention of many of the world's foreign ministers to the the situation of the Christian and Yazidi minority.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 20, 2018
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