A visit by Pope Francis to the people of Iraq would give them desperately needed encouragement and strength, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad Louis Raphael I Sako said.
In an interview published on the Vatican Radio website, he urged Pope Francis to make a pastoral visit to Iraq to give the Arab world's embattled Christians hope and the strength "to persevere and not to leave".
Iraqi Christians feel close to the pontiff, "but they are awaiting his pastoral visit," the patriarch said.
"We need his presence among us, so that he can give us so much strength, so much hope, not only for Christians but for everyone," said Sako.
"The Pope is a symbol not only for Christians - he is an international, spiritual and moral authority and everyone awaits his presence among us, which can give us so much strength to persevere and not to leave".
Meanwhile, the patriarch also said that the international community must find a way to defeat Islamic State militants which he said "is growing" in strength and influence to the point the group is behaving "like a real state".