The pope is visiting occupied Assyria to show support for the remaining Assyrians, but in fact the Vatican is undermining the conditions for a continued Christian presence in the area.

Pope Francis is visiting the Iraqi-occupied part of Assyria. The visit is presented by the Vatican as a support for ”the Christians” who have returned to their areas on the Nineveh plain after the ethnic cleansing of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014. In fact, the Vatican has long been one of the actors whose actions undermine the basic conditions for continued Assyrian presence in this part of Assyria.

The following is a critical review of the various positions and actions that the Vatican stands for and that work to the detriment of the Assyrians.

Blessing Kurdish occupation

The Vatican has become one of the political actors that has most clearly praised and blessed the Kurdish occupation of Assyrian territories. The Vatican has actively portrayed the false image of the Kurds in northern Iraq as ”protectors of the Christians.” The clan-led Kurdish government has made several visits to the Vatican to gain positive publicity and strengthen its image as a ”protector of Christians”. The Vatican is thus a player that contributes to continued Kurdish occupation of the northern part of the Nineveh Plain.

Counteracts province formation

The Vatican has also in various ways opposed the proposal to elevate the Nineveh plain to a province. In practice, the proposal would give the Assyrians local autonomy and great powers to develop the local economy and security. Instead, the main representative of the Vatican in Iraq, Cardinal Louis Sako, has been defaming the proposal for years, calling it a proposal to create a ”Christian ghetto.” Kurdish autonomy, on the other hand, is not described as a Kurdish ghetto but is hailed by the Catholic representatives. The proposal has been described in negative terms even in media loyal to the Vatican.

Opposes local security force

The Catholic Church has also taken a very hostile approach to the Assyrians, or ”Christians”, taking matters into their own hands regarding local security on the Plains of Nineveh. Since the formation of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), Vatican Cardinal Sako in Iraq has repeatedly spoken negatively of ”Christian militias”. According to statistics compiled by the Assyrian Policy Institute, a larger proportion of Assyrians have returned to the parts of the Nineveh Plain where the NPU stands for security. However, this has not affected the negative attitude of the Vatican representatives.