VATICAN CITY (us.gov.krd) – His Holiness Pope Francis received Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani today in Vatican City and thanked Kurdistan Region for sheltering those who fled ISIS terrorists.
In a bilateral meeting, His Holiness the Pope thanked Prime Minister Barzani for his visit. He expressed his gratitude to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the people of the Kurdistan Region for hosting people were displaced as a result of the fight against ISIS terrorists, highlighting the plight of Christians in particular.
Pope Francis called for the coexistence, peace and stability that exists in the Kurdistan Region to prevail and hoped that all problems would be solved through peaceful dialogue and mutual understanding. His Holiness told Prime Minister Barzani that he will pray for continued success, harmony, and coexistence.
Prime Minister Barzani said he was pleased to meet His Holiness Pope Francis for the second time. The Prime Minister briefed His Holiness on the situation in the region, the economy and the political challenges that Kurdistan Region has been experiencing, including the war with ISIS, issues with Baghdad, and recent developments in the disputed territories that caused the displacement of large numbers of people to Kurdistan again.
The KRG Joint Crisis Coordination Center estimates that the annual cost of hosting the 1.4 million displaced Iraqis and Syrians currently in Kurdistan is $1.9 billion. Approximately 350,000 Christians have found refuge in the Kurdistan Region since 2003, 150,000 since 2014 alone.
The Prime Minister asked the Pontiff to play a role in resolving outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad. He explained that even though the Kurdistan Region is going through hardship, it remains open for displaced persons and has diligently worked to return Christians to their homes, and works with local churches to encourage Christians not to leave the country. Prime Minister Barzani stressed that the KRG will continue protecting the coexistence of its Christian component, as it constitutes an important part of the Kurdistan Region’s culture heritage and social fabric.
Nearly all Chaldean, Syriac, and Assyrian Christians in Iraq reside in the Kurdistan Region. In 2015 the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East relocated its seat from Chicago to its historical homeland in Erbil.
In a meeting with Pietro Parolin, Prime Minister of Vatican City, Prime Minister Barzani shed light on the political and economic situation in the Kurdistan Region, recent developments regarding Erbil-Baghdad relations, as well as the efforts to start dialogue between the KRG and the federal Iraqi government.
Prime Minister Parolin thanked Kurdistan’s people and government for helping and supporting displaced people as a whole and Christians in particular. He wished that all outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad to be solved through dialogue and understanding.