Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Iraqi Christians are preparing for Easter "on a
spiritual level," fortified by the period of "fasting of Lent"
which is observed in the Eastern Churches "with particular rigor." So Msgr. Shlemon
Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, tells AsiaNews
about the beginning of Holy Week in a country still torn apart by violence
and attacks, in which the Christian minority - almost halved in a few years -
is often the victim of persecution. Abstinence
from meat "in the first, fourth and last week," combined with a fast
in some cases complete "on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday," the
prelate adds, are a source of courage and strength in a community that is still
and is a treasure for the whole Middle East region. To
prevent incidents or attacks, the government has ensured greater protection.
Bishop Warduni also expresses the "satisfaction" of priests in the capital, for the number of faithful who visited the churches during Palm Sunday celebrated on April 1. "[The churches] were definitely not as full as in the past - says the bishop - but the turnout was higher than expected and the priests were satisfied. On Sundays preceding the number was smaller, so we did not expect to see such a numerous turnout." Many adults with the children, which lent these places of worship an atmosphere of joy and celebration. "We prayed and sang together" continues auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.
In recent weeks, Iraq has experienced a series of violence and attacks that hit both the capital and the areas north of the country. In recent days in Mosul a faithful was killed and the Christian minority is in danger of being crushed by the power struggle that pits Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, against each other and which is funded and supported by fundamentalist movements abroad or foreign powers. "So far there have been no incidents of violence - continues Msgr. Warduni - and we hope that this will also be the case in the coming days. Today and tomorrow are days of penance and confession, Holy Thursday, the blessing of the oils and the washing of feet". The real wait is for the Way of the Cross on Friday, with the reading of the passion, alternating moments of preaching. "The Way of the Cross will be held inside places of worship - clarifies the prelate - to avoid incidents." On Saturday, the Easter vigil in some cases, will continue "until at 9 or 10 at night." Then on Sunday, the heart of the celebrations will bring together all Iraqi communities in the capital.
"The central government has provided more protection - says Msgr. Warduni - to guarantee conditions for the safe celebration of the holidays. We were also recently visited by some Muslims, Islamic religious leaders", to demonstrate their closeness to the Christian holidays. "Fanaticism is not missing - says the prelate - and even the Arab Spring could not prevent the rise of extremist movements that are against their fellow Muslims." However, the prelate concludes, "the Christian hope that comes from our faith tells us not to condemn anything, not even the Arab Spring: we hope that all events are for the good of the world, for the good of the human being, and supressed by fanaticism and by elements far from God and from religion. "(DS)