On the heels of several international appeals in the last two weeks for help for Christians in Iraq who have been forced from their homes by Islamic militants, Pope Francis is sending a personal envoy there to show solidarity with the displaced.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Vatican's ambassador in Baghdad during the Iraqi war, said Friday that his aim will be to offer spiritual help to those forced to leave their homes.
Details of his trip are still being worked out. Filoni acknowledged in an interview with Vatican Radio that the region is difficult to reach.
Amid new incursions by Islamic militants in Christian villages of northern Iraq, Francis beefed up his call for the international community to take measures to protect Christians from violence.
On Friday he tweeted: "Please take a moment to pray for all those who have been forced from their homes in Iraq."
On Thursday the pope released a statement as Iraqi militants from the Islamic State group overran a cluster of predominantly Christian villages alongside the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, sending tens of thousands of civilians and Kurdish fighters fleeing.
In the statement, Francis appealed to the international community to "put an end to the humanitarian drama underway, adopt measures to protect those who are threatened by violence and assure them necessary aid, especially urgent for those who are homeless and depend on the solidarity of others."
Now-emptied Christian communities in the region date from the first centuries of Christianity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.