Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday he is greatly concerned about the fate of Christian faithful in Iraq, returning to a theme he discussed with US President George W. Bush earlier this month.
"Particularly in Iraq, the homeland of so many of the Assyrian faithful, Christian families and communities are feeling increasing pressure from insecurity, aggression and a sense of abandonment," Benedict said.
Christians make up just three percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The major Christian groups include Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics.
"Many of them see no other possibility than to leave the country and to seek a new future abroad," the pontiff said. "These difficulties are a source of great concern to me, and I wish to express my solidarity with the pastors and the faithful of the Christian communities who remain there, often at the price of heroic sacrifices."
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