Pope Francis: Music of Christmas Hymns Accompanied by Tears of Terror

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Displaced Iraqi Christians settle at St. Joseph Church in Irbil, northern Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.Credit: AP

Pope Francis sent Christmas wishes to the Christians of the Middle East but noted that "for many of you the music of your Christmas hymns will also be accompanied by tears and sighs."

In a letter, posted on the website of the Vatican news agency news.va, the pontiff lamented the "afflictions and tribulations" of the region.

He said these pains had been aggravated by "the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist organization, of previously unimaginable dimensions, which has perpetrated all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts."

The pope didn't mention ISIS, also knows as Islamic State, by name but left little doubt as to his reference.

"It has particularly affected a number of you, who have been brutally driven out of your native lands, where Christians have been present since apostolic times," he wrote.

Islamic State, which is seeking to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, has prominently publicized a number of barbaric acts, including beheadings, and has been accused of uprooting large communities of Christians, Yazidis and others.

In July, Reuters reported, Islamic State told northern Iraq's Christians that if they wanted to remain in the caliphate, they faced the choice of converting to Islam, paying a religious tax, or being killed.

In his letter, Pope Francis told the Middle East's Christians that the "majority of you live in environments which are predominantly Muslim. You can help your Muslim fellow citizens to present with discernment a more authentic image of Islam, as so many of them desire, reiterating that Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and favors peaceful coexistence on the part of all." 

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