04/11/2005, 00.00
IRAQ - VATICAN

Pope, example of humility to Iraqi Christians

A crowded memorial mass was held in Mosul for the Pope; in Baghdad seminarians compose a hymn to honour the Pontiff, 'pastor, apostle and father".

Mosul (AsiaNews) – John Paul II never made it to Iraq but Iraqi Christians always felt him close to them and comforted by his protection, this according to Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul.

Since the December 7, 2004, terrorist attack against the Bishop's residence in Mosul the Pope has become an indispensable point of reference for the city's suffering Christian community.

"The Pope's photo hanging on a wall was the only thing left untouched by the blast. Our parishioners saw this as a confirmation that the Pope was constantly praying for Iraq," he said.

Archbishop Rahho, who met the Pope in 2001 during the Chaldean Synod, said that he "always admired his boundless humility".

He remembers that it was from him that he learnt how important it was to be open to the young, who are the future of the Church.

"His closeness to the young," the prelate said, "has given the Church new life and made his presence felt in this suffering world".

Since 1993, Archbishop Rahho has organised a "youth week" twice a year in Mosul.

In this northern Iraqi city, young people feel close to John Paul II.

For Fadi Labbo, 26, a pharmacist, "he was the symbol of humility and peace; so many enemies sitting side by side at his funeral proves it".

Yazin Ghazala, 27, was hoping to go to World Youth Day in Cologne (Germany) to see the Pope. "Charismatic figures like him are hard to find," he said.

On April 8, the day of the Pope's funeral, the Archbishop celebrated mass in Mosul's Saint George's monastery. It was co-celebrated by Mgr Georges Casmoussa, the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.

Many faithful attended the service, so did two Syrian Orthodox bishops, an Assyrian bishop and a pastor from Mosul's Armenian Orthodox Church.

In Baghdad Christians also experienced the death of John Paul II with great emotion.

A local source told AsiaNews that in the Chaldean seminary some students wrote a hymn in honour of the Pope.

"The hymn speaks of the Pope as chosen by the Holy Spirit," the anonymous source said, to be "a pastor, an apostle, a father".

The hymn's lyrics also include the Pope's call "not to be afraid". (MA)

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