Catholic News Service photo
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, has urged Catholics to follow Christian principles in the April 22 presidential election. Twelve candidates are vying to succeed French President Jacques Chirac. Cardinal Barbarin is seen in this Sept. 1, 2006 , photo in Rome.
Catholic News Service photo
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, has urged Catholics to follow Christian principles in the April 22 presidential election. Twelve candidates are vying to succeed French President Jacques Chirac. Cardinal Barbarin is seen in this Sept. 1, 2006 , photo in Rome.
ANKAWA, Iraq — Iraqi Christians driven from their homes by Islamist terrorists should not flee their country, a French cardinal told them.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon celebrated Mass in St Joseph's Church, Ankawa, and told the Iraqis that Pope Francis wanted Christians to remain there.

Sahar Mansour, a refugee who attended the July 28 Mass for peace in Iraq, said the cardinal told the congregation of more than 1,000 people, many of who had fled Mosul as the city fell to Islamic State fighters in June, that the pope's wish was for them "to be strong and stay in their homeland" and to follow the example of Christ.

She said Cardinal Barbarin, who was joined by French Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry and Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, among others, also told worshippers that he had twinned his own archdiocese with the church in Mosul.

About 3,500 Christian families are living in a refugee camp at Ankawa, and many of them wish to seek asylum in either Europe or the United States, according to Mansour.

France has been forthright in its condemnation of the persecution of the Iraqi church; at least two government ministers expressed outrage at Islamist abuses against Christians and promised to grant asylum to those refugees who wish to leave Iraq.