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Pope sending cardinal to Iraq to support fleeing Christians

The Vatican has come in for criticism from Eastern Christians not doing more to help the persecuted minority

Published: Updated:

Pope Francis is sending a cardinal to Iraq to help thousands of Christians fleeing the rapid advance of jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Vatican said Friday.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a former papal nuncio to the country, is being sent to Iraqi Kurdistan to show the pope’s “spiritual support and the church’s solidarity with the people who are suffering,” papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

He said Filoni would be departing soon but gave no date.

The Vatican has come in for criticism from Eastern Christians not doing more to help the persecuted minority, who are fleeing into the mountains alongside thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community in the face of a rapid advance north by Sunni extremists.

Francis had appealed on Thursday for the international community to mobilize to protect and ensure aid for the fleeing populations, thousands of whom have been stranded on mountain tops with little food or water.