The pope says the cruelty of the fighting in the Iraqi city of Mosul "makes us cry, leaves us without words."
Pope Francis told some 50,000 faithful gathered Sunday for the Angelus blessing that he was "pained by the murder in cold blood of numerous sons of this beloved land, among them many children."
He expressed his closeness to the people of Iraq "in these dramatic hours," saying "our souls are shaken by the brutal acts of violence that are being committed for too long against innocent citizens, whether Muslims or Christians."
Iraqi forces and their allies have launched a major offensive this week to retake Mosul, the country's second-largest city, from the Islamic State group. The United Nations says more than 4,000 people have fled the area.