Fr. Jorge Cortés, IVE missionary in Iraq, was received, together with Fr. Carlos Walker, Superior General of the IVE, in a private audience by the Holy Father on Saturday, November 15th.
Fr. Jorge recounted about the meeting: “The Pope greeted us standing, very close to the door through which we had entered. After we had genuflected and kissed his ring, he thanked us for the work that we are doing in Iraq. I said that we were the ones who were thankful; we thanked him for his concern and interest in the quest for peace, and for his exhortations. He asked me about the dangers in the mission. I replied that in every mission there are dangers and that in Iraq there is the additional fact of the war. He said that he had met the bishop of Mosul that very morning. He asked Fr. Walker how many novices we had, and Fr. Walker replied that there were around 80. The Pope asked how many priests of the Congregation were in the Middle East and Fr. Walker gave him the numbers country by country; then the Pope said, “Keep going forward!!! … And do not give up!!”
Fr. Jorge was able to greet the Pope yet another time at the Wednesday audience on 19th November.
We present the news article that appeared in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano on November 20, 2014.
The anguished cry of persecuted Christians
Christians who flee the violence of the fundamentalists, entire families who are deprived of everything, forced to leave their homes and possessions in order to save their lives. Fr. Jorge Cortés, from the Institute of the Incarnate Word and the Vicar of the Latin Archdiocese of Baghdad, has recounted the dramatic events to the Pope. Travelling from Iraq, where he has been since 2010, he has come to thank Pope Francis for his support and prayers for peace and for persecuted Christians, particularly in the Middle East. The Argentine religious explained that the present urgent need is to receive the families who come to the capital. Currently there are 500 of entire families staying in schools: more than 80 are housed with the Carmelite Fathers, while the rest are divided between schools and homes. The situation however is unsustainable because they lack everything. They have with them only the clothes that they were wearing when they fled.
Also for the 120 registered Latin-rite families in Baghdad, the situation is not easy. Fr. Cortés said that every week, at least 15 Catholics leave the country, and the exodus continues unabated. There have also been requests for help from the Catholics living in the north, particularly in the cities of Duhok and Arbil, where the harsh climate is a tough test for the refugees who, without shelter or food, must face the cold and the snow.