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    » 10/13/2009, 00.00

    IRAQ

    Archbishop of Kirkuk: for 1600 years, Iraq has been a "country of martyrs"



    Diocese remembers the massacre of Christians in 409 AD, in which hundreds of people were beheaded for their faith. Program includes a fast for peace, prayers, masses and a conference. Archbishop Sako: the persecutions have not stopped "the story and the journey" of Christians, strong in the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist.

    Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - For 1600 years, Iraq has been "a country of martyrs", which finds in the “Holy Spirit and the Eucharist" the strength to bear witness to the faith “despite persecution”. So says Mgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, on the eve of a week of celebrations to mark 1600 years since the massacre of Iraqi martyrs. A long series of past and present violence, but one which has not stopped "the sacred history of the Christians ... and their journey."

    In 409 AD hundreds of Christians were beheaded for their faith. "Among them - said Msgr. Sako - a widow named Scirin-Miskenta, with two children, and general Tahmazgerd, who carried out the decree of the king, who ordered the massacre. "Seeing their faith, serenity and the trust of the widow - continued the prelate - Tahmzgerd converted to Christianity" and as a result was "beheaded later." Around 470, to commemorate the massacre of Christians, the bishop of Kirkuk Maruta "built a sanctuary” on the hill where "the martyrs were buried”.  The "Red Church", as it is called, junits Christians and Muslims and is now "the graveyard of the Chaldeans"; the relics of martyrs, custodied on the main altar, have always been a destination for the processions of the faithful.

    To celebrate the anniversary of the martyrdom, the diocese has organized a series of events: on Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace; Thursday, hymns of the martyrs and a conference at the recently restored Sanctuary; on Friday Mass will be celebrated; on Saturday a play, staged by the choir of the cathedral and the church of St. Joseph. Under the slogan "true to our fathers in faith," Christians in Kirkuk want to "bear witness to the faith, love, trust and openness."

    The history of violence and persecution against Christians has continued uninterrupted. Abductions, kidnappings, assassinations, fleeing families are the dramatic testimony of a "chain of martyrs - underlines Msgr. Sako - that continues. Our country is dotted with shrines to  martyrs that people constantly visit, it is a spirituality of martyrdom".  Christians find the strength to "remain faithful" in the "Holy Spirit, but also in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist." "In every Mass - added the archbishop of Kirkuk – we are called upon to make the sacrifice of Christ in our life, in his words; take, break, give ... Do this in memory of me: this is the sacred history of Christians and ... their journey”.

     

     

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    See also

    16/01/2007 IRAQ
    Iraq moving towards division, says bishop of Kirkuk
    Mgr Louis Sako voices his concerns over the growing split between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. A divided Iraq will not have peace but may confine Christians in their own ghetto.

    31/05/2011 IRAQ
    Kirkuk Christians and Muslims unite in prayer to Our Lady for Peace in Iraq
    The initiative, launched by Archbishop Mgr. Sako, saw the participation of political and religious leaders and many faithful who packed the cathedral. Also present were the families of victims of attacks. The prelate speaks of the "value" of the meeting, at a time of "suffering." He adds, Christians work for reconciliation, but do not want ghettos or diasporas.

    25/05/2011 IRAQ - GERMANY
    Archbishop of Kirkuk awarded for his struggle for human rights
    Archbishop Louis Sako has been recognized by the Stephanus Foundation, in Germany. It is the third prize for the Iraqi archbishop, after the Defensor Fidei in 2008 and Pax Christi in 2010. In his acceptance speech he stresses the importance of Christian-Muslim dialogue and calles for greater commitment to peace.

    29/08/2009 IRAQ
    In Kirkuk Christian and Muslim leaders for dialogue and reconciliation
    At the invitation of Msgr. Sako, 50 religious leaders are meeting during Ramadan to launch an appeal to political leaders for an end to conflicts and divisions. "We are all brothers, sons of the same God we must respect and cooperate for the good of the people and our country."

    11/03/2008 IRAQ
    Silence must not descend on Archbishop of Mosul
    The appeal was launched by the Archbishop of Kirkuk, 12 days on from Msgr. Rahoo’s abduction. To the Bishops and Christians of the world: “do not remain indifferent to this suffering, do not leave us alone to face this trial”. Amid increased fears, today in Kirkuk 15 Muslim leaders ask once again that the prelate be released.



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