AFP: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday called for quick action to form a new Iraqi government to improve security and said special attention was needed for the Christian minority.
VATICAN CITY, July 2, 2010 (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI on Friday called for quick action to form a new Iraqi government to improve security and said special attention was needed for the Christian minority.
“The new government will need to give priority to measures designed to improve security for all sectors of the population, particularly the various minorities,” the pope told the new Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, according to an official statement.
“The Holy See naturally shares the concern… that Iraqi Christians should remain in their ancestral homeland, and that those who have felt constrained to emigrate will soon consider it safe to return,” the pope said.
Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003, but the number has shrunk by more than a third as many have fled the country, according to Christian leaders.
“Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld,” the pope said.
Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his rival for the premiership Iyad Allawi met this week in a new bid to end a row that has stalled coalition talks for months.
The meeting was only their second since an inconclusive March 7 election that left a power vacuum and fears insurgents could exploit the uncertainty.