Pope Francis appeals for the urgent protection of Mosul civilians
‘The Protection of Civilians Is an Imperative and Urgent Duty’
Speaking to an inter-religious Iraqi delegation, Pope Francis appealed for the protection of civilians in Iraq, which he said is “an imperative and urgent duty.” Francis said “I am happy to greet the delegation of Iraqi leaders made up of representatives of different religious groups, accompanied by Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.”
Francis then called for the protection of civilians in Mosul who were caught between terrorists and the advance of the Iraqi army: “My thought goes to the civilian populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and to the displaced because of the war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness. On expressing profound grief for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all the appeal to commit themselves with all their strength in the protection of civilians, an imperative and urgent duty.”
The Pope pleaded for a future of reconciliation in Iraq. “The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies in this mosaic, which represents unity in diversity, strength in unity, prosperity in harmony. Dear Brothers, I encourage you to continue on this path and I invite to pray so that Iraq finds peace, unity and prosperity in reconciliation and in harmony among its different ethnic and religious components.”
U.S. Forces acknowledged their responsibility for the 17 March air attack on Mosul, which caused the death of at least150 “innocent victims” mainly women and children, and have launched an investigation.
The Chaldean Church also expressed “profound grief” and “great alarm”at the killing of so many civilians. Local church committees were activated and instructed to provide food for evacuees fleeing Mosul. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Monsignor Louis Raphael Sako, issued a message in which he stressed the need to protect and defend innocent lives during armed conflicts. Patriarch Sako urged those involved to respect the laws of war and the moral and religious obligation to protect and defend “innocent lives.”
Sako expressed gratitude for the “sense of duty of the Iraqi military men” and his satisfaction over “the advance of the Iraqi military forces in the districts of Mosul.” He concluded by invoking Almighty God “to protect Iraq and hasten the return to security, peace and stability.”