(Zenit.org) – Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying they are in the heart of the Church and a witness to her strength and message of salvation.
Addressing Arabic speakers at the end of his Sept. 3rd weekly general audience in which he taught on the motherhood of the Church, the Pope said: “The Church is a mother and like all mothers knows how to accompany the child in need, to raise the fallen son, to care for the sick, look for the lost, rouse the sleeping children and also defend the defenceless and persecuted.
“Today I want to assure, especially the latter, of this closeness,” he said, directing his comments especially to suffering Christians in Iraq. “You are in the heart of the Church; she suffers with you and is proud of you; you are her strength and the concrete and authentic witnesses to her message of salvation, forgiveness and love. The Lord bless you and protect you!”
Islamic State militants have forced thousands of Iraqi Christians from their homes over the past few weeks. Some have also been brutally attacked, murdered or enslaved.