Cardinal sent by Pope to Iraq meets refugees ‘living the sufferings of Christ’

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by Hannah Roberts in Rome, Liz Dodd
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who is to spend Holy Week in Iraq, has spoken of his admiration for the Iraqi refugees he met in Jordan yesterday.
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples was sent by Pope Francis on a second visit to Iraq to show solidarity with persecuted Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
Yesterday he stopped in Amman in Jordan en route to Iraq and visited two parishes that have hosted refugees fleeing violence by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq.
“I also saw the preparation for the reception of about 20 families,” he told the missionary news agency Fides. “I admired the generosity of so many. It is nice to see that these families are able to regain their dignity and an atmosphere of friendship.” Afterwards he departed for Baghdad.
Tens of thousands of non-Muslims were forced to flee their homes to escape the violence of the IS militias as they swept through large areas of Iraq and Syria.
Many others have been killed or kidnapped and forced to work as sex slaves. Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary Bishop in Baghdad, said that Christians who have fled their homes are still living in the same condition as last year, in tents and caravans.
“The situation for Christians is truly tragic,” he told Vatican Radio. “There are so few of us remaining. The IS fanatics persecute everyone who does not think like them and join them.”
Bishop Warduni said there was a “grand plan against the Middle East Christians, who have belonged in the region for 2,000 years, to make them disappear.”
Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who visited Iraq last August, left for Baghdad on Monday evening, on a visit that coincided with that of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Two car bombs exploded in the city on Monday.
The Holy See press office said: “Pope Francis has expressed his concern for Christian families and other victims of violence who have been expelled from their homes and villages in Iraq, in particular those from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, many of whom have found refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. “As Holy Week approaches these families share with Christ the unjust violence of which they are made victims, and participate in the suffering of Christ himself.”
Above: Syrian refugees are seen in Zaatari Camp in Jordan on 29 March. Photo: CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters