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Pope Francis prays for Yazidis as Iraqi troops advance in Mosul

Pope Francis (C) accompanied by Leiria-Fatima Bishop Antonio Marto (R) changes skull-caps with a young child at the entrance of the Our Lady Rosario Cathedral at the Fatima Sanctuary, in Leiria, Portugal, 13 May 2017. Pope Francis is in visiting Fatima on 12 and 13 May on the 100th anniversary of the apparent appearances of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in 1917. (Photo by Paulo Cunha/EPA)
Pope Francis (C) accompanied by Leiria-Fatima Bishop Antonio Marto (R) changes skull-caps with a young child at the entrance of the Our Lady Rosario Cathedral at the Fatima Sanctuary, in Leiria, Portugal, 13 May 2017. Pope Francis is in visiting Fatima on 12 and 13 May on the 100th anniversary of the apparent appearances of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in 1917. (Photo by Paulo Cunha/EPA)

VATICAN CITY, May 14 (Reuters) – Pope Francis called attention on Sunday to the plight of people affected by war and conflict in the Middle East as U.S.-backed forces close in on Islamic State militants in Iraq.

 

“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 after his regular Sunday address in the Vatican.

 

“I encourage the different communities to follow the path of dialogue and friendship, to build a future of respect, security and peace, far from any sort of war.”

 

The battle for Mosul, the densely populated northern Iraqi city that Islamic State made its de facto capital, was approaching an end on Sunday after seven months of gruelling combat.

 

Many Yazidis, whose beliefs combine elements of several Middle Eastern religions, were persecuted and held in Mosul by Islamic State, which considered them devil-worshippers.

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