(CNSNews.com) - Pope Francis on Friday named Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his personal envoy to Iraq while the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) continues to persecute and kill Christians as it advances through the region.
Cardinal Filoni, who is currently the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, told Vatican Radio that “this is a gesture that shows the Pope’s concern towards the situation of [Iraqi] Christians” who have been forced to flee their homes.
Filoni also said he hoped to work with Chaldean Patriarch Louis Rafael Sako , who has been warning of “human catastrophe and...a real genocide” in the region.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, further commented on Vatican Radio, saying that the cardinal demonstrated his commitment to Iraqi Christians as a nuncio in Baghdad from 2001 to 2006.
“[He is] a courageous person, a person who has shown his love for the people of Iraq and the region with great dedication,” Father Lombardi said. “He can understand the circumstances and deeply take part in the problems and sufferings of these inhabitants.”
Christians have suffered greatly under ISIS since it invaded Iraq in June. As non-Muslims, they are forced to pay heavy taxes, convert, or face death. Moreover, members of ISIS have marked Christian homes as families flee for their own safety. Finally, ISIS militants captured Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, on Thursday.
In response, the Pope has sent various statements, tweets and messages urging “all men and women of goodwill to join me in praying for Iraqi Christians and all vulnerable populations.“ Pope Francis is also hosting a meeting of all nuncios serving in the Middle East, according to Father Lombardi.