Pope Francis on Sunday (May 14) called attention to the plight of people affected by war and conflict in the Middle East, as U.S.-backed forces close in on ISIS militants in Iraq.
Many innocent people, including Christians, Muslims and from minority groups such as the Yazidi, are suffering "tragic violence and discrimination," Francis said after his regular Sunday address in the Vatican, urging the different communities in the region to follow the path of dialogue and friendship.
"I entrust to Mary, the Queen of Peace, the fate of the people afflicted by wars and conflicts, especially in the Middle East. So many innocent people are being sorely tested, be they Christian, or Muslim, or from minority groups like the Yazidi, who are suffering tragic violence and discrimination," Francis said.
The battle for Mosul, the densely-populated northern Iraqi city which ISIS made its de facto capital, was approaching an end on Sunday after seven months of grueling combat. Many Yazidis, whose beliefs combine elements of several Middle Eastern religions, were persecuted and held in Mosul by ISIS, which considered them devil-worshippers.
The pope also marked Mother's Day which is celebrated in many countries on the second Sunday of May, leading the large crowds in St. Peter's Square into a silent prayer for mothers.