AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour

AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour
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Pope Francis stands up before holding a prayer at the Grand Immaculate Church in Qaraqosh, Iraq on March 7, 2021. (Reuters)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour
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Pope Francis is greeted by people as he arrives at the Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh. (AFP)
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Pope Francis faces the public at a square near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in Mosul on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour
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Pope Francis speaks at the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in Mosul on March 7, 2021.
AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour
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Iraqis gather in the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in the northern city of Mosul ahead of the Pope Francis’ visit on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Pope Francis greets Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits upon his arrival at Irbil airport on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Iraqi women dressed in traditional outfits hold palm leaves as they welcome Pope Francis upon his arrival at Irbil airport on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Pope Francis is greeted by children up on his arrival at Baghdad’s Saint Joseph Cathedral on the second day of the first papal visit to Iraq on March 6, 2021.
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Worshippers sit in the courtyard outside Baghdad’s Saint Joseph Cathedral ahead of a mass attended by Pope Francis on March 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Pope Francis stands with of Iraqi religious figures during an interfaith service at the House of Abraham in the ancient city of Ur on March 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani meets with Pope Francis at his home in Najaf, Iraq on March 6, 2021. (Ayatollah Sistani’s Media Office/AFP)
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Pope Francis holds a mass at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, Iraq, March 7, 2021. (Reuters)
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Pope Francis walks with an incense censer as he leads mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil, on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Pope Francis blesses a statue of the Virgin Mary that was vandalized by Daesh in Karemlash as he celebrates mass in Irbil. (AP)
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Chanters sing religious hymns during mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil, on March 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Pope Francis leads a mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, Iraq March 7, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 March 2021

AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour

AS IT HAPPENED: Pope Francis visits Erbil, Mosul on third day of Iraq apostolic tour
  • Pope Francis spent much of Saturday in the air, touching down in three Iraq cities

DUBAI:  Pope Francis vowed Sunday to keep Iraq in his heart, as he concluded the largest mass and final public event of a historic trip meant to encourage the country's dwindling Christian community and deepen interfaith dialogue.

The pontiff celebrated among thousands of smiling worshippers in a sports stadium in the Kurdistan region's capital Erbil, after visiting Christian survivors of Daesh’s reign of terror.

The 84-year-old was driven in his white, windowless "pope-mobile" into the stadium, where jubilant worshippers sat socially distanced on white chairs spread out on the greens.

Others stood, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Francis, in the stands ringing the Franso Hariri Stadium, named after an Iraqi Christian politician who was assassinated by extremists 20 years ago.

Follow live coverage of his third day itinerary below (All times GMT)




Pope Francis leads a mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, Iraq March 7, 2021. (Reuters)

1516: Pope Francis promised thousands gathered for mass on Sunday in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil, the last public event of his historic trip, that he would keep Iraq in his heart.
"In my time among you, I have heard voices of sorrow and loss, but also voices of hope and consolation," he said.
"Now the time draws near for my return to Rome. Yet Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart."




Pope Francis blesses a statue of the Virgin Mary that was vandalized by Daesh in Karemlash as he celebrates mass in Irbil. (AP)

1345: Pope Francis blesses a statue of the Virgin Mary that was restored after Daesh chopped of the head and hands.

The statue was transported from the church in Keramlis, a Christian village on the Nineveh Plains, to a place of honor on the altar for Sunday’s Mass.

Keramlis, an ancient Assyrian town less than 18 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, fell to Daesh in August 2014, two months after the extremists took Mosul and surrounding areas, sending most inhabitants fleeing. In Keramlis, they destroyed the interior of St. Adday church and decapitated the statue of the Madonna.




Pope Francis holds a mass at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, Iraq, March 7, 2021. (Reuters)

1300: Pope Francis celebrated mass on Sunday with several thousand worshippers spread across a stadium in the Kurdistan regional capital of Erbil, the largest liturgy of his trip to pandemic-hit Iraq.
With vaccinations still extremely limited in Iraq and fears the mass could become a super-spreader event, authorities restricted attendance at the Franso Hariri stadium, which usually holds 20,000 people.




Pope Francis walks with an incense censer as he leads mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil, on March 7, 2021. (AFP)

1030: Pope Francis’s meeting with the Qaraqosh community ends, and he will be on his way back to Erbil where he will later celebrate Holy Mass at the Franso Hariri stadium before heading to Baghdad.

1008: Pope Francis is urging Iraq’s long-suffering Christians to forgive the injustices committed against them by Muslim extremists and to continue persevering to rebuild the country after years of war and sectarian conflicts.
Speaking to a packed Church of the Immaculate Conception, Francis said “forgiveness” is a key word for Christians. “The road to a full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to grow discouraged. What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up.”




Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with the Qaraqosh community at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. (AP)

0940: Pope Francis meets Christians in an ancient church torched by the Daesh group when it swept into the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh in 2014. After the militants were ousted from the town in 2016, the Immaculate Conception Church’s (Al-Tahera) imposing marble floors and columns were restored and the faithful gathered there to welcome the pontiff.




Pope Francis arrives at the Immaculate Conception Church to a warm welcome. (AP)

Watch Pope Francis travel to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh where he was greeted by the faithful:

 

 

 

0928: Pope Francis receives a rousing welcome as he arrives at the Immaculate Conception Church.




Pope Francis greets faithful as he arrives to hold a mass at the Immaculate Conception Church. (Iraqiya TV/Reuters TV via Reuters)

0910: Pope Francis arrives in Qaraqosh and is enroute to the Immaculate Conception Church.

WATCH: Residents of the Iraqi Christian enclave of Qaraqosh wait for the arrival of Pope Francis. Click on Twitter link below.

READ: Pope Francis’ visit provides moral support to Christians of Iraq’s Qaraqosh




People arrive to attend a mass to be held by Pope Francis near the Grand Immaculate Church in Qaraqosh, northern Iraq. (Reuters)

0804: Pope Francis has left Mosul and is off to the small Christian village of Qaraqosh north of Iraq to visit the Immaculate Conception church.




Iraqi Catholics wait for Pope Francis inside the restored Immaculate Conception church. (Screengrab)

0733: Pope Francis prays for “victims of war” outside a centuries-old church in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, heavily damaged by the Daesh group.
The 84-year-old pontiff said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East “does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned, but also to the society they leave behind.”
“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis — who were cruelly annihilated by terrorism — and others forcibly displaced or killed,” Francis said.
The Rev. Raed Kallo, the only priest in Iraq’s second largest city, shared his story among the crowd and before the pontiff. He fled along with most of his congregation of 500 Christian families when Daesh overran the city in June 2014.




Pope Francis releases a white dove during a prayer for war victims in Mosul. (Reuters)


But he said he returned three years ago, after the extremists were defeated by Iraqi and international forces in a grueling campaign that left much of the city in ruins. He said: “My Muslim brothers received me after the liberation of the city with great hospitality and love.”
But he said only around 70 Christian families reside in Mosul today. The rest are afraid to return and many have emigrated abroad.
Also addressing the crowd was Gutayba Aagha, a Muslim and the head of the Independent Social and Cultural Council for the Families of Mosul. In words welcomed by Francis, he said: “In the name of the council I invite all our Christian brothers to return to this, their city, their properties, and their businesses.”




Pope Francis prays for war victims at Hosh Al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul. (Reuters)

0709: Pope Francis is now at the Hosh Al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul, where he will lead a prayer of suffrage for the victims of the war.




Pope Francis arrives at the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in Mosul. (AFP)

0655: Pope Francis arrives via helicopter in Mosul, once a stronghold for Daesh and where Christians now number little more than a few dozen families.

MOSUL WAITS FOR POPE FRANCIS




Iraqi children dressed in costumes wave national flags near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in Mosul on March 7, 2021. (AFP)




Iraqis gather in the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (Al-Tahira-l-Kubra) in the northern city of Mosul ahead of the Pope Francis’ visit on March 7, 2021. (AFP)

WATCH: Preparations at Hosh Al-Bieaa (Church Square) in Mosul, where Pope Francis will lead a prayer of suffrage for the victims of the war. Click on Twitter link below.

0523: Pope Francis arrives in Irbil, and is welcomed by Prime Minister Mansour Barzani of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and other civil authorities of the region.

READ: Pope Francis’ visit brings Iraqi Kurdistan’s safe-haven status into sharp focus




Pope Francis gets a warm welcome from Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits upon his arrival at Irbil airport on March 7, 2021. (AFP)

- with agencies


Lebanon at risk of complete blackout by September-end: State power firm

Lebanon at risk of complete blackout by September-end: State power firm
Updated 24 September 2021

Lebanon at risk of complete blackout by September-end: State power firm

Lebanon at risk of complete blackout by September-end: State power firm
  • PM Mikati heads to Paris to meet President Macron after government formation

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s state electricity company EDL said on Thursday it risked a total blackout across the country by September-end as its fuel oil reserves dwindle.
Lebanon, in the throes of one of the worst economic meltdowns of modern history, has been plagued by worsening fuel shortages for the past few months with most Lebanese relying on private generators for power.
The company can generate less than 500 megawatts from fuel oil it secured through a deal with Iraq, it said in a statement.
It said its reserves of both Grade A and Grade B fuel oil had reached a critical point and had run out already for some plants that have now stopped production.
“The network already experienced total blackouts across the country seven times and if this continues there is a high risk of reaching total and complete blackout by end September,” the statement said.
Iraq signed an agreement in July allowing the cash-strapped Lebanese government to pay for 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil a year in goods and services.

FASTFACT

Lebanon, in the throes of one of the worst economic meltdowns of modern history, has been plagued by worsening fuel shortages for the past few months with most Lebanese relying on private generators for power.

The heavy fuel oil is not suitable for use in Lebanon, but it is exchanged in tenders for a suitable grade.
EDL held Lebanon’s central bank responsible for not securing dollars in exchange for “the surplus of local currency accumulated in the company’s account to generate power.”
Elsewhere, Hezbollah has continued to provide fuel for municipalities and hospitals hoping to procure Iranian diesel through the Al-Amana company, which is under US sanctions. The administration of a hospital in northern Lebanon denied having received fuel through Al-Amana.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati headed to Paris on Thursday, his first official visit after the formation of the government, and is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
France exerted intense pressure on Lebanese politicians to form a government in line with the initiative launched by Macron in the aftermath of the Beirut blast, which rocked the country last August.
On the eve of Mikati’s visit to the French capital, the International Support Group for Lebanon welcomed the formation of the new government and the parliament’s vote of confidence in the administration and its program.


Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’
Updated 23 September 2021

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’

Countries ‘abandoning thousands of Syrian children in desert limbo’
  • Charity says 62 children died of various causes in northeastern Syria camp this year



BEIRUT: Two children die every week in Al-Hol, one of the overcrowded Syrian camps where families with suspected links to the Daesh group are stranded, Save the Children said on Thursday.
The charity said many countries, including EU states, were abandoning thousands of children in their desert limbo, vulnerable to violence, fires, malnutrition and illness.
Save the Children said a total of 40,000 children from 60 different countries were living in dire conditions in the camps of Roj and Al-Hol in northeastern Syria.
“Many of the world’s richest countries have failed to bring home the majority of their children stuck in” the two displacement camps, the group said in a statement.
It said 62 children had died of various causes so far this year, including violence, disease and accidents.
Save the Children said a total of 73 people, including two children, were murdered in Al-Hol alone so far this year.
The remote camps managed by the Kurdish forces that control the area were meant to house the families of men who had been detained over suspected ties to the Daesh group.
However, they also hold many families who simply fled Daesh occupation of their homes in Iraq and Syria. Some have been there for more than four years.
Save the Children interviewed several children trapped behind the fences of Al-Hol, where they live like prisoners and from which their governments are unwilling to repatriate them.
“I cannot endure this life anymore. We do nothing but wait,” said one 11-year-old Lebanese girl who was interviewed in May and was since reportedly killed during a failed escape attempt in a water truck.
The charity said France had 320 children held in both camps but had only repatriated 35. The United Kingdom has 60 and only brought four home.
“What we are seeing here is governments simply abandoning children, who are first and foremost victims of conflict,” said Sonia Khush, director of Save the Children’s Syria response.
She said 83 percent of repatriation operations so far had been to Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The Kurdish authorities running the area consistently said they did not have the capacity to organize trials for all the detained foreign suspects nor support their families.
France and other Western countries have been wary of the impact mass repatriations could have on domestic security and public opinion.


Israeli to face trial on 70 sex abuse charges in Australia

Israeli to face trial on 70 sex abuse charges in Australia
Updated 23 September 2021

Israeli to face trial on 70 sex abuse charges in Australia

Israeli to face trial on 70 sex abuse charges in Australia

MELBOURNE: A former school principal who was extradited from Israel after a six-year legal battle was ordered to stand trial on Thursday on 70 charges of child sex abuse.
Malka Leifer, 55, pleaded not guilty to all the charges at the end of a court hearing. The committal hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court was held to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.
Leifer is accused of carrying out the abuse against sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper when Leifer was head of Melbourne’s Adass Israel School between 2004 and 2008.
The three sisters testified by video link during a closed court hearing. Leifer also appeared by video from Melbourne’s women’s prison, the Dame Phyillis Frost Center. Melbourne is currently in lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.
The judge, Magistrate Johanna Metcalf, said she believed the evidence was of sufficient weight to support a conviction.
Leifer faces 44 counts of indecent assault, 13 of an indecent act with a child, 10 of rape, and three of sexually violating a child. Prosecutors withdrew four further charges after it became clear those alleged incidents occurred in Israel.
The next hearing will be held at Victoria’s County Court on Oct. 21.
Leifer’s lawyer Ian Hill didn’t make any submissions at the end of the prosecution’s case. The judge noted Leifer denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
Five witnesses gave evidence on Thursday including former Adass Israel School staffer Esther Spigelman, who said she went to see Leifer the day after she was stood down by the school board over the allegations in 2008.
“It was a very big shock and I went to say goodbye. She was very upset with what they were doing to her,” Spigelman said.


Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35
Updated 23 September 2021

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35

Clashes between Houthi militia and government forces kill 35
  • The rebels have accelerated their push to take Marib in recent months

SANAA: Flighting flared up this week between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in the country’s southern province of Shabwa, killing 35 from both sides, tribal leaders and security officials said on Thursday.
Clashes are now in their third day in several districts of the government-controlled province, including Bayhan and Usaylan, said the officials and the elders. Dozens have been wounded on both sides, they said.
In Shabwa, government forces regained control of areas that Houthis had captured earlier this week, the officials said.
The rebel offensive on Shabwa is believed to be aimed at disrupting a key line of communication through which pro-government reinforcements are sent to the central province of Marib, where fighting has been raging for several months.
The rebels have accelerated their push to take Marib in recent months, while escalating cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has launched dozens of airstrikes on towns in Marib — including Rahbah, Sirwah and Madghel — to back pro-government ground forces,
The head of the UN food agency has warned that 16 million people in Yemen “are marching toward starvation” and said food rations for millions in the war-torn nation will be cut in October unless new funding arrives.
David Beasley said at a meeting on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis that the US, Germany, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other donors stepped up when the World Food Programme was running out of money earlier this year and “because of that we averted famine and catastrophe.”
WFP is running out of money again, he said, and without new funding, ration reductions will be made for 3.2 million people in October and for 5 million by December. At a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland on March 1, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for $3.85 billion for Yemen this year. But donors pledged less than half the amount — $1.7 billion, which the UN chief called “disappointing.”
Yemen on Thursday received its third batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, the Health Ministry said.
A delivery of 356,000 shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Aden, the temporary capital of the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Health Minister Qasem Buhaibeh said the vaccines will be distributed to people who had already received one AstraZeneca dose.
Yemen received 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca in March, followed by 151,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson in August.
The government’s emergency coronavirus committee has registered 8,830 coronavirus infections and 1,664 deaths so far although the true figure is thought to be much higher as the war has restricted COVID-19 testing and reporting.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement has provided no figures since a couple of cases in May 2020.
COVAX is co-led by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization and aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries.


4 Tunisian parties say president has lost his legitimacy

4 Tunisian parties say president has lost his legitimacy
Updated 23 September 2021

4 Tunisian parties say president has lost his legitimacy

4 Tunisian parties say president has lost his legitimacy
  • Saied declared on Wednesday he would rule by decree

TUNIS: Four Tunisian parties said on Thursday that President Kais Saied has lost his legitimacy and called for an end to what they called a “coup,” after the president said he was taking control of legislative and executive powers.
Saied declared on Wednesday he would rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution as he prepared to change the political system.
Attayr, Al-Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol parties said in a joint statement that Saied’s move enshrined an absolute power monopoly.
Wednesday’s decrees include the continuing suspension of the parliament’s powers and the suspension of all lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. But the text published in the official gazette went even further — now freezing lawmakers’ salaries.
They also state laws will not go through the parliament, whose powers are frozen, granting him near-unlimited power.
On July 25, Saied sacked Tunisia’s prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority, saying it was because of a national emergency.
For law professor Mouna Kraiem, the new emergency measures amount to “the establishment of a dictatorship in the full sense of the word.”
Saied has denied wanting to be a dictator, saying that he eventually aims to put his political reforms to the public in the form of a nationwide referendum. But his political critics remain skeptical of this intention. The July event came after years of economic sluggishness, but were triggered by a day of violent protest and a rise in coronavirus cases.
Constitutional expert Chafik Sarsar says that while parliament has not been definitively dissolved, Saied has implemented a “mini-constitution” that breaks with the hybrid parliamentary-presidential system established by Tunisia’s 2014 post-revolution constitution.
“This appears to be a temporary rearrangement of powers ... to prepare for a transition toward a new constitutional order,” Sarsar said.
Analyst Salah Al-Din Al-Jourshi agrees that Saied is moving to transform the political order.
“He is very clear in his aims: he wants change, not just installing a presidential system but also transforming relations between the head of state and the public,” he said.