05/28/2010, 00.00
IRAQ
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A new pastoral ministry against the Iraqi exodus, terrorism and economic crisis

It is the most important and urgent pastoral program of the new bishop of Erbil in Kurdistan. Bishop Warduni: Facing the economic crisis. The diocese of Baghdad comes to the aid of other dioceses.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – A pro-active spirit, hope and initiatives to reach out to the local community.  The Chaldean church in Iraq continues its struggle despite the threats posed by political instability, insecurity and religious persecution. And in this struggle for survival, pastoral ministry and catechesis plays a central role.

The north of the country, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region continues to be a place of refuge for Christians fleeing from the more dangerous cities of Baghdad and Mosul. Here the Church gathers its strength and faces, without playing the victim, the challenges to its survival. This is also the spirit in which last May 24 Mgr. Bashar Warda, 40, took up his new position as the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil. The Redemptorist replaces Mgr. Rabban Al-Qasr who since 2007 governed as Apostolic Administrator. In 2001, Fr Warda was appointed director of the Cultural Centre of Babel College, where he also taught. He is director of the Chaldean Patriarchal Seminary in Ankawa in Erbil and professor of moral theology of the local institute of religious sciences.  Mgr Warda has long been committed to rethinking a new pastoral plan that addresses the needs and problems that have arisen in aftermath of the persecution and forced exodus of the faithful.

This is the greatest challenge to the Chaldean Church in Iraq, which is concentrating its efforts to be closer to its pastors and strengthen catechesis to combat the aggressive evangelization carried out by the Protestant sects in the country. Bishop Shlemon Warduni, patriarchal vicar of Baghdad, said that despite the economic crisis that afflicts Iraq along with the rest of the world, "the Chaldean Church and the patriarchal diocese of Baghdad are doing well and continue to pay priests salaries without difficulty".  To best support the catechesis in Baghdad and help in the rest of Iraq, the Patriarchate is studying projects that ensure more revenue "for the good of his Church and all its needs," says Warduni.

The community, which over the past five years has seen a significant haemorrhaging of faithful towards Europe, Australia and the United States, the appointment of a new bishop "is always a moment of joy”, as some Chaldeans in the north told AsiaNews. The diocese in 2005 had about 2,500 families today it is home to 7200 Ankawa alone. (LYR)  

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