During his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis told Iraqi Christians that they are the "heart" of the church.
Francis hoped to encourage the Christians in their faith, as they are facing threats from Islamic militants. In his comments, which were translated into Arabic, Francis told Iraqi Christians that the church was proud of their dedication. The pope likened the Catholic Church to a mother who would "defend her defenseless and persecuted children."
"The church suffers with you and is proud of you," Pope Francis said.