03/31/2005, 00.00
IRAQ

Easter in Mosul, Christians overcome fear and throng churches

Churches full of the faithful are a sign of the resurrection, says Chaldean priest.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Faithful 'thirsty' of prayers and willing to brave the threat of violence thronged churches to celebrate Easter in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq that has seen many terrorist attacks.

Priests were 'forced' to celebrate services with solemnity and in their full lenght despite pledges to keep things short to reduce the risks of attacks.

Fr Ragheed Ganni, secretary to the Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, told AsiaNews that in his church about 1,200 people took part in the Good Friday liturgy.

"The church [. . .] was packed with a lot of people standing, even more than last year," he said. But "I didn't keep my promise in keeping the celebrations short. The big turnout was so encouraging that I arranged for it to last longer", he added. "For us priests, we felt obliged to perform regular services for the faithful who had come out braving possible violence".

Father Ragheed also explained that on Easter Eve he baptised ten children, whilst on Easter Sunday he and a Dominican Father celebrated mass together for two and a half hours before a congregation thirsty of prayers.

The 33-year-old clergyman said the same happened "in many other churches in Iraq", not only in Mosul. "For us, Christians of Iraq, this was the real meaning of the Resurrection," he stressed.

Father Ragheed was present when, on December 17 2004, the Bishop's residence was destroyed in a terrorist attack that horrified the local Christian community. (MA)

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