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Church in "constant and permanent prayer" over Iraq

A Cardinal has said the Catholic Church is following the situation in Iraq and Syria with "constant and permanent prayer in Christ, our hope".

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said the Church was giving 'concrete' support to bishops, priests, religious and lay communities in areas under threat from Islamic State.

IS has been taking over large parts of Iraq and Syria as it attempts to set up a caliphate ruled by strict Muslim law.

In some areas Christians have been brutally murdered whilst others have fled orders to pay a tax or die.

Cardinal Sandri used an interview with newspaper Vatican L'Osservatore Romano to call for more international action against IS militants.

Currently the US is leading a coalition of countries, including the UK, which are using air strikes against the extremists.

The Cardinal said: "We can say that the Church can do something and do, but it is also very important the role of the international community.

"This actually can put an end to violence, hatred, war, and make religious freedom and the rights to live and there are guaranteed to all, without distinction".

He added that the Vatican was doing all it could to put pressure on governments to act.

"[There are] so many elements that bear witness to the activities of the Holy See - in particular through diplomacy and contacts with the governments of the international community, also the United Nations in New York and Geneva - to shake the world of indifference to this drama."

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