One day before the historic start of Pope Francis' apostolic journey to Iraq, he sent a video message in preparation for his imminent arrival in the land of Abraham.
"Dear brothers and sisters in Iraq, assalam lakum [peace be upon you].
In a few days I will finally be among you. I long to meet you, to see your faces, to visit your land, ancient and extraordinary cradle of civilization. I come as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore the Lord's forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to ask God for the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds. And I come among you as a pilgrim of peace, to repeat: "You are all brothers" (Mt 23:8) (Mt 23:8). Yes, I come as a pilgrim of peace in search of fraternity, animated by the desire to pray together and to walk together, also with brothers and sisters of other religious traditions, in the sign of Father Abraham, who unites Muslims, Jews and Christians in a single family.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, who have given witness to faith in Jesus in the midst of the most difficult trials, I await you. It is an honor for me to meet a Church that has been martyred: thank you for your witness! May the many, too many martyrs you have met help us to persevere in the humble strength of love. You still have in your eyes the images of destroyed houses and desecrated churches, and in your hearts the wounds of broken bonds and abandoned homes.
Let us not give in to the spread of evil: the ancient springs of wisdom in your lands guide us elsewhere.
I wish to bring you the affectionate caress of the whole Church, which is close to you and to the tormented Middle East and encourages you to go forward. Let us not allow the terrible sufferings that you have experienced and that grieve me so much to prevail. Let us not give up in the face of the spread of evil: the ancient springs of wisdom in your lands guide us elsewhere, to do as Abraham did, who, though he left everything, never gave up hope (cf. Rom 4:18); and trusting in God, he gave birth to descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to the stars. Therein lies our promise.
Dear brothers and sisters, I have thought a lot about you in these years, about you who have suffered so much but have not fallen. To you, Christians, Muslims; to you, peoples, like the Yazidis, the Yazidis, who have suffered so much, so much; to all of you brothers, to all of you. Now I come to your blessed and wounded land as a pilgrim of hope. From you, in Nineveh, the prophecy of Jonah resounded, which averted destruction and brought a new hope, the hope of God.
And in these hard times of pandemic, let us help each other to strengthen fraternity, to build together a future of peace.
Let us allow ourselves to be infected by this hope, which encourages us to rebuild and start anew. And in these hard times of pandemic, let us help each other to strengthen fraternity, to build together a future of peace. Together, brothers and sisters of all religious traditions. From you, thousands of years ago, Abraham began his journey.
Today it is up to us to continue it, in the same spirit, walking together on the paths of peace. Therefore, I invoke upon all of you the peace and blessing of the Most High. And I ask you all to do as Abraham did: to walk in hope and never stop looking up at the stars. And I ask you all to join me in prayer. shukran! [Thank you!"