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» 03/23/2005
IRAQ
Christians of Mosul, the light of the Resurrection in the Calvary of war
by Marta Allevato
Mosul Archbishop's Easter message: "Let us learn from Jesus; let us work so that the last word is not left to terrorism and death." Local priest tells of Easter preparations: packed churches, youth attending Mass despite parents' orders.  Liturgy shortened during Holy Week to limit the risk of attacks.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – In Mosul, theatre of kidnappings, slaughters and violence perpetuated by Sunni rebels and criminal gangs, Christians live under constant threat.  But if the passage from life to death is the meaning of Easter around the world, the certainty of Resurrection is what distinguishes the life of Iraqi Christians in what amounts in a way to retracing Jesus' footsteps.  "We have gone through 2004, our Calvary, with its pain and destruction, but we have not lost our vitality, we have not fled, we are still here, because we are certain of Resurrection."   Father Ragheed Ganni, secretary to the Bishop of Mosul, in northern Iraq, tells AsiaNews of the meaning of Christ's sacrifice in a city martyred by war, where the Cross of daily violence does not prevent Christians from continuing the heroic witness of their faith.

Father Ragheed explains that, today more than ever, following Jesus' example is a necessity not only for Christians but for all Iraqis.  The same holds for Mosul's Chaldean Archbishop, Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho who, in his current Easter message, encourages Iraqis to draw from the hatred, the fear and the bombs around them the real meaning of the Resurrection: "Assassinations, terrorism and fear must not have the last word in Iraq.  Just as Christ overcame the tomb and death, what must triumph at the end is Life and Love."

For the 33-year-old priest, the people of Iraq at this moment are like those of Israel who "crossed the Red Sea of war, leaving slavery behind them, and are setting out towards a new life, full of hope."  This thought has been confirmed by strong church attendance during Lent.  Fr Ragheed says that, each Friday, the Church of Saint Paul, located near the bishop's residence which was destroyed by 2 bombs on December 7, 2004, has been "full of people taking part in the Via Crucis."  "The fact that attendance is the same as last year is already a positive sign."  The priest does not deny, however, that fear exists among people.  "We ourselves are trying to keep Mass short to limit the risk of attacks and liturgies will be shortened also during the Holy Week."

Fr. Ragheed explains that Palm Sunday had been an exception: "In my parish, the Church of the Holy Spirit, we celebrated a Mass that went on for hours.  Encouraged by the large number of people in attendance, everyone gave in to their great need for prayer."

However, Holy Week is being lived under the banner of caution and care.  "We make our plans day by day on the basis of daily events.  In the case of evening functions, we try to finish them before dusk while morning functions always begin after 8:30 a.m."  Fr Ragheed added also that, in various parishes of the city, some baptisms will be celebrated prior to the Saturday Vigil.

Kidnappings, death threats, ransom payments have become a veritable industry in Mosul.  "As Christians are one of the richer categories," Fr Ragheed explains, "they are the target of groups intent on kidnapping them for copious ransoms."

It seems however that all these problems are not frightening the community of the faithful.  The strongest sign of hope comes for the "courage of youth."  "Young people continue to come to Church despite orders of their parents, who worry for their safety."  "The braver ones," he says, "try to encourage the others.  They have organized themselves to meet twice a week at the Church of Saint Paul, where they pray together and ponder topics that they choose themselves, such as fasting and prayer.

Volunteer work is also a heroic effort in Mosul.  "Young men," Fr Ragheed said, "spontaneously offer their services to keep watch outside the church during Mass which, following the bombings, we are still celebrating in the hall under the bishop's residence."  He explains that, by taking part in parish life, young people "feel integrated into the world" and not isolated in their own suffering.  "Many of them," he adds, "would like to go World Youth Day in Cologne."

Young couples are another sign of hope among Christians for a better future. "Lately, I have been celebrating 2 or 3 marriages a month and these couples are proof that life goes on, that there is hope of building something good."

After studying for 7 years in Italy, Fr Ragheed returned voluntarily to Iraq last year, to be close to his congregation during the war. On December 7, 2004, he experienced the bomb attacks against the bishop's residence in Mosul, yet he continues to bear witness to a fearless faith.  "The strength that comes from God," he said, "cannot be explained" and so he entrusts himself to the words of Saint Paul: "Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12, 10).

The Catholic Chaldean diocese of Mosul, lead by Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, is made up of 12 parishes serving a community of 35,000 people.  There are 22 diocesan priests, 8 monks and 20 nuns. Saint Paul Parish has 750 families, Holy Spirit Parish about 900.


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See also
03/31/2005 IRAQ
Easter in Mosul, Christians overcome fear and throng churches
03/24/2005 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
Jerusalem: the Cross breaks down the wall of fear
by Bernardo Cervellera
03/21/2005 IRAQ
Baghdad Christians celebrate Palm Sunday without fear
03/22/2005 JORDAN
Easter, the 'Light of Christ', from Jerusalem to the Jordan
by Hana Mouasher
03/24/2005 PHILIPPINES
Easter, a time of crowded churches and terrorist threats
LAOS
Catholics celebrate Easter in a new church in northern Laos
IRAQ
Easter in Mosul, Christians overcome fear and throng churches
China - Vatican
Underground Catholic priest arrested
PAKISTAN
One killed and six injured after an Easter attack by armed assailants
PAKISTAN
Easter in Pakistan, a time of solidarity despite discrimination
TURKEY
In Antioch Catholics and Orthodox celebrate Easter together
BANGLADESH
Waiting for the Resurrection of Christ and the rise of the sun on a working day
THAILAND
In Phuket, the Passion of Christ can be seen in the eyes of people
THAILAND
Catholics and Muslims united by a Cross
PHILIPPINES
Easter, a time of crowded churches and terrorist threats
ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
Jerusalem: the Cross breaks down the wall of fear
HOLY LAND – ISRAEL – PALESTINE
The joy of the Risen in the midst of the trials of the Mideast, says Patriarch of Jerusalem
PAKISTAN
Catholic NGO to help widows and children for Easter
JORDAN
Easter, the 'Light of Christ', from Jerusalem to the Jordan
THAILAND
On Easter night 25 new Christians to join the faith
LEBANON
Palm Sunday, when hope lies with the young
PAKISTAN
Catholics crowd churches for Palm Sunday services
IRAQ
Baghdad Christians celebrate Palm Sunday without fear
PAKISTAN
From the Passion of Christ to the fight against social injustice
THAILAND
Far from high tech gizmos, Thai Catholics celebrate Lent
south korea
Way Of The Cross To Emphasize Dignity Of Human Life From Conception
CAMBODIA
On Eastern Sunday 174 Cambodians to become Christian
PAKISTAN
Fasting and solidarity during Lent in Pakistan
vietnam
Catholics Pledge Thrifty Lunar New Year Celebrations To Help Tsunami Survivors

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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