During his weekly Angelus address, Pope Francis decried the use of men and boys as human shields during the fighting this week for the Iraqi city of Mosul. “This cruelty makes you cry, leaving us without words,” he said
Pope Francis has expressed closeness to the people of Iraq as government forces there are trying to recapture the northern city of Mosul, which has been under the control of the so-called Islamic State since 2014.
In his weekly Angelus address Sunday, the pontiff said he was “distressed” at hearing reports that Isis forces have been using young Iraqi boys and children as human-shields during the fighting.
“In this dramatic hours, I am close to the entire population of Iraq, in particular to that of the city of Mosul,” said the pope, speaking from the window of the apostolic palace to crowds in St. Peter’s Square.
“Our souls are shaken by the brutal acts of violence that for too long have been committed against innocent citizens, be they Muslim, Christian, or of other ethnicities or religions,” said Francis.
“I remain distressed in hearing news of the cold-blooded killing of numerous children in that beloved land, among which were also many babies,” he continued. “This cruelty makes you cry, leaving us without words.”
Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by an international coalition, launched a joint offensive last week to retake Mosul from Isis control. Reports have indicated that the fighting has been particularly violent, and the United Nations has said it is “gravely worried” by the use of hundreds of boys as human shields.
Earlier in his Angelus address, Francis focused on one of the Mass readings for the day: St. Paul’s letter to Timothy in which the saint recounts his life and says he now awaits the final judgment of the Lord.
Stressing Paul’s reliance on the Holy Spirit’s work in the mission of the church, the pontiff declared: “Today is the time of mission and the time of courage!”
“Courage to strengthen wavering steps, to again take up the taste of giving ourselves up for the Gospel, for recovering trust in the strength that the mission brings with it,” the pope continued.
“It is the time of courage, even if having courage does not guarantee success,” said Francis. “From us is requested the courage to fight, not necessarily to win; to proclaim, not necessarily to convert. From us is requested the courage to be different from the world, without ever becoming polemical or aggressive.”
Source: Vatican Insider