Pope's message of harmony in Iraq
On Sunday, Pope Francis ended a three-day official visit to Iraq, a country that no pontiff had ever visited before and which in recent years has been particularly hard hit by war, sectarian violence and jihadist terrorism. The northern part of the country, Iraqi Kurdistan, suffered the occupation of the militiamen of the Islamic State, which made Mosul the capital of its caliphate. The jihadists imposed terror among the civilian population and massacred the Christian and Yazidi communities that have lived in the country alongside Muslims for centuries. That is why the Pope's visit to this city was particularly significant, where he took the opportunity to make a strong plea against wars and violence. The Pope also wanted to convey his warmth to the Christian communities throughout the Middle East, which have been and are still being persecuted to the point that in many places only a testimonial presence remains of them.
The disappearance of these spaces of interreligious coexistence, as Bosnia and Herzegovina once was, is bad news for humanity and a victory for fundamentalism and intolerance. That is why the visit will surely be remembered for the meeting between Francis and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, leader of the country's Shiite community and one of the most important figures in the Islamic world. The image of the two sitting and talking was intended to convey to the whole world a message of harmony between religions at a time when xenophobia, on the one hand, and religious fanaticism, on the other, are causing cracks globally and even within Western liberal societies.
In Catalonia itself we saw how easy it is to inoculate the virus of extremism in young Muslims educated here, such as those who carried out the attacks on La Rambla in 2017. That is why it is important that the ecclesiastical hierarchies on both sides are able to launch this message of unity and mutual respect. Now it is only necessary that the Pope's intentions reach beyond the borders of the Vatican and really reach the whole Church, where unfortunately some retrograde positions are still widely held.
From this point of view the visit is consistent with the ecumenical message of the Pope, who has made efforts in recent years to rebuild bridges not only with the Islamic community but also with the Jewish and Orthodox communities. The pontiff has wanted to mark his profile from the outset with these trips and these gestures, seeing also that in other fields such as gender equality very little progress has been made. It would be desirable, however, a more decisive attitude on the part of Francis, since the Church is still today a stronghold of male domination in which women cannot exercise certain responsibilities because of their gender. This battle, however, is expected to be much more difficult than visiting a country devastated by war and sectarian violence.