Pope Francis Prays for Yazidis as Iraqi Troops Advance on ISIS in Mosul

Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St Peter's square during the Sunday Regina Coeli prayer, on May 14, 2017 in Vatican. He prayed for the Yazidi people as the Iraqi-led battle to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul continues. Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty

Pope Francis called attention on Sunday to the plight of people affected by war and conflict in the Middle East as U.S.-backed forces close in on Islamic State militants in Iraq.

"So many innocent people are being sorely tested, be they Christian, or Muslim, or from minority groups like the Yazidi, who are suffering tragic violence and discrimination," Francis said after his regular Sunday address in the Vatican.

"I encourage the different communities to follow the path of dialogue and friendship, to build a future of respect, security and peace, far from any sort of war."

Read more: Pope Francis calls for "urgent" action to prevent civilian deaths in Mosul

The battle for Mosul, the densely populated northern Iraqi city that Islamic State made its de facto capital, was approaching an end on Sunday after seven months of grueling combat.

Many Yazidis, whose beliefs combine elements of several Middle Eastern religions, were persecuted and held in Mosul by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), which considered them devil-worshippers.

In December, the pontiff paid tribute to Iraqi Christians persecuted by ISIS. Many Christians had to flee Mosul to Kurdish regions to the north of the city, or pay a tax known as a jizya to save themselves from death. ISIS, after overrunning Mosul in June 2014, desecrated churches in the city.

"Despite trials and dangers, they courageously show that they belong to Christ," he said.

Pope Francis Prays for Yazidis as Iraqi Troops Advance on ISIS in Mosul | World