Vatican demands right of return for Mideast Christians forced to flee by Islamic militants



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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is demanding that Christians and other religious minorities have the right to return to their homes in Iraq and Syria that have been emptied by Islamic militants.

Pope Francis summoned Vatican ambassadors from across the region for three days of meetings. At the conclusion Saturday, they reaffirmed that military force was justified to stop the Islamic State group and that Muslim and Christian religious leaders must denounce the "instrumentalization of religion to justify violence."

The ambassadors said the Iraqi and Syrian governments, backed by the international community, must eventually ensure that Christians and other minorities can return to their homelands in safety and freedom.

Noting the 2,000-year presence of Christians there, the ambassadors said: "One cannot resign oneself to conceiving the Middle East without Christians."

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