Pope sending cardinal to Iraq to support fleeing Christians
VATICAN CITY – Agence France-Presse
Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, about 30 kilometres east of the northern province of Nineveh, take shelter at the Saint-Joseph church in the Kurdish city of Arbil, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on Aug. 7. AFP Photo / Safin HamedPope Francis is sending a cardinal to Iraq to help thousands of Christians fleeing the rapid advance of jihadis from the Islamic State (IS), the Vatican said Aug 8.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a former papal nuncio to the country, is being sent to Iraqi Kurdistan to show the pope's "spiritual support and the church's solidarity with the people who are suffering", papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said. He said Filoni would be departing soon but gave no date.
The Vatican has come in for criticism from Eastern Christians not doing more to help the persecuted minority, who are fleeing into the mountains alongside thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community in the face of a rapid advance north by Sunni extremists.
Francis had appealed on Aug. 7 for the international community to mobilise to protect and ensure aid for the fleeing populations, thousands of whom have been stranded on mountain tops with little food or water.
The Vatican's own representative for Christians in the Middle East, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, said humanitarian intervention of a completely different order was needed to stop "the painful and unjust exodus of Christians" from Iraq.