Pope Francis heard Muslim and Christian residents in the ruined Iraqi city of Mosul, who were telling him about their lives under the brutal rule of the state on Sunday.
Francis, on a historic first visit by a pope to Iraq, visited the northern city to encourage the healing of sectarian wounds and pray for the dead of any religion.
The 84-year-old pope saw ruins of houses and churches in a square that was the old town’s thriving centre before Mosul was occupied by the Islamic State affairs from 2014 to 2017. He sat surrounded by skeletons of buildings, dangling concrete staircases, and cratered ancient churches, most too dangerous to enter.
Francis, who flew to Mosul by helicopter, was visibly moved by the earthquake-like devastation around him. He prayed for the city’s dead. “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 and many thousands of people- Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others- forcibly displaced or killed,” he stated.