In a festive atmosphere and before 10,000 people, Pope Francis said goodbye to Iraq by celebrating a massive mass in the Hariri Stadium in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. At this point the crossing of the Holy Father for Iraq, a historic three-day visit that has mobilized the entire Iraqi people from north to south. Christians from cities such as Duhok, Suleimania and Erbil did not want to miss the event to say goodbye to their most important religious figure in an area of the country marked by the Christian exodus since 2014, after going through calamities and having to flee their homes through the violence by radical Wahhabis on the Nineveh Plains. The Holy Father travels to Baghdad this Sunday to leave for Rome this Monday morning after an intense and unforgettable trip for Iraqi society.
It was just after four in the afternoon when the Pope arrived at the Hariri Stadium, named after a Christian politician assassinated in 2001. People waving the flags of the Vatican, Iraq and Kurdistan, women in traditional dresses, music in various languages and chants of ‘long live the Pope!’ It is the image that the Holy Father has found. “A new era begins for Iraq,” says the young man Endi Slawa, 24 years old and who has come to the stadium with his friends and family, from Duhok. Slawa, who is holding a banner from Francisco, assures that he had not planned to come, but that he changed his mind. “When I saw the people in Baghdad and Ur, I knew I had to come. This is not seen every day, “he says.
With the perimeter of the stadium packed with security and helicopters flying the area, the Pope arrived at the stadium. At that moment, the people turned over and Francisco made a courteous turn, greeting those present. “I am very happy, it has been many years since I have seen so many Christians like this, united,” she says excitedly. Kalima Mihael, 58, from Telknaf, a city north of Mosul. Francisco began the event with a Virgin on one side of the stage. Terrorists destroyed it when they reached Karamles, a Christian village on the Nineveh Plains. Her hands and head were cut off and after a long restoration she has been blessed by the Holy Father to take her back to Karamles. The Pope began the ceremony by recalling the ordeal that the Iraqi community has suffered for years. “Here in Iraq, how many of your brothers and sisters, friends and fellow citizens bear wounds of war and violence, visible and invisible wounds,” he explained.
The event lasted just over half an hour in which you could see the excited faces of those present at the translated words of the Holy Father. Several priests have passed through the stands to offer communion to Iraqis after mass. The Pope concluded by thanking Iraqi society and Christians for their welcome. “In the midst of great poverty and hardship, many of you have generously offered concrete help and solidarity to the poor and those who suffer. This is one of the reasons that have prompted me to come as a pilgrim among you, to thank you and confirm you in faith and witness. Francisco has also given hope to the Christian community in the country. «HLtd, I can see and feel that the Church of Iraq is alive, that Christ lives and acts in this town of his, holy and faithful. At the end, after a great applause, the music began to play and the Iraqis, wanting more, have stayed in the stadium balancing the lights of their mobiles and with a small hope that the Pope would return for a walk to the court.
Vana hikmat she is leaving the stadium with her husband, Nobel Resan and his son. They are all from Erbil. I’m going home happy. This has been a dream come true, “he says. Resan, cap and ID in hand, explains what the ceremony meant. “It is a very precious day for us. A day for Christianity in Kurdistan », Explain. Ayman Sabwi, 41, dressed in a jacket for the occasion, is visibly excited and hugging people as he leaves the stadium. «I am full of peace. We should reduce the sound of bullets in this country and increase the sound of peace, ”he says.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism