Europe

Pope demands 'urgent' action to protect civilians in Iraq

  • Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis caresses a child as he arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis caresses a child as he arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has demanded "urgent" action to protect civilians in Iraq, saying forces involved in the battle for Mosul have an obligation to protect innocents following a recent spike in civilian casualties.

Francis issued a special appeal for peace in Iraq at the end of his general audience Wednesday. He greeted an interfaith group of Iraqis on hand in St. Peter's Square, encouraging them in helping Iraq find reconciliation among various ethnic and religious groups.

Francis said that he was particularly concerned about Iraqis trapped by recent fighting to take Mosul back from Islamic State group militants.

He said: "In expressing profound sadness for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew my appeal that everyone commit themselves to using all efforts to protect civilians, an imperative and urgent obligation."