Baghdad (AsiaNews) - An Advent of
light and shadow for Iraq's Christians, who are celebrating the reopening of
the cathedral of Baghdad but at the same time subjected to new - and heavy -
threats from a radical Shiite Muslim leader. From
studies of a television broadcaster based in Egypt, an Iraqi Ayatollah launches
a fatwa against the religious minority on the eve of Christmas:
"Conversion to Islam or death." However,
strength of faith overcomes the fear of violence as witnessed by celebrations
for the "rebirth" of the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the capital,
the scene of a bloody attack at the end of October 2010 (see AsiaNews
Qaeda attack on Baghdad church ends in massacre)
In an interview last December 13
on Egyptian television Al Baghdadia, the Shiite ayatollah Ahmad Al Hassani Al
Baghdadi issued a fatwa against Christians in Iraq. Labeling
them as "polytheists" and "friends of the Zionists", the
extremist leader stressed that they must choose "or Islam or death,"
while "their women and girls may legitimately be regarded wives of
Baghdadi is known for his "jihad" positions and for attacking Americans
in the past during their presence in the country, and today he lives in Syria, supporting
the armed opposition.
Catholic sources in the capital tell
AsiaNews that it is "a very
serious fatwa," but "it is unlikely that people will be upset too
government pays "attention" to these proclamations by extremists,
however it is possible that such words could "create panic in some areas
of the capital," where there are now "very few" Christians.
This morning meanwhile Cardinal
Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches,
presided over the rededication ceremony of the restored Syrian Catholic
Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The
place which reopened yesterday to worship and to the faithful, was the scene
October 31, 2010 of a massacre carried out by a group of al Qaeda, which killed
about 50 faithful and two priests.
During the homily, the cardinal
immediately recalled the "testimony offered by many of our brothers and
sisters" who "preceded by two young and heroic priests" united
forever "their lives to Jesus Christ." He
highlighted the "honorable sacrifices" that have allowed the
reopening of the cathedral and pointed out that, through the comfort and hope
"the Lord encourages Eastern Christians, and especially those of Iraq, to communion
and testimony." Bringing
the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sandri invoked the Lord, so that
"the tears shed in this sacred place, become the good seed of communion
and witness and bear much fruit."
cardinal is in Iraq for a five-day official visit, which began on December 13,
in addition to the consecration, Cardinal Sandri took part in the Christmas
concert organized for the Year of Faith in the Armenian cathedral in the
capital, while over the next days he will visit Kirkuk
and Erbil in the north.