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World News

Iraq: Pope calls on President to protect Christians

by Heather Preston

Pope Francis has urged the President of Iraq to guarantee the safety and presence of Christians in the country, following recent attacks and unrest in the region.

President Barham Salih made his second visit to the Vatican on Saturday to meet with the Holy See, as well as the Vatican secretary of state and foreign minister in a series of talks focused on peace and security.

According to the Vatican Press Office the "importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country, of which they are an integral part," was discussed.

The "significant contribution" Christians in the region bring to the "reconstruction of the social fabric" was also highlighted.

Islamic extremism is still a problem in Iraq and has led to many Christians facing continued persecution for their faith in the form of attacks, abductions and killings. 

Many Christians have fled as a result of the ongoing violence.

The Vatican Press Office stated that the parties discussions focused on the "importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country, of which they are an integral part, and the significant contribution they bring to the reconstruction of the social fabric, highlighting the need to guarantee their security and a place in the future of Iraq."

Francis and Salih exchanged gifts with the Papal receiving a replica of the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient set of Babylonian laws, as a symbol of peace.

Saleh was presented with a medallion and a set of the Pope's major teaching documents, including one on Christian-Muslim fraternity to represent his identification as a descendant of Abraham.

The recent tensions between Iraq and the US could make a visit to the country challenging for the Pope, who has expressed his desire to visit in the near future.

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