Fr Samir, parish priest in Kurdistan, recounts the atmosphere of joy and excitement over the apostolic journey in March. The pontiff sends a message to Iraq, a "new country where everyone can live in peace". The news on Christian and Muslim media and social networks. For Card Sako it will be an "opportunity for unity and support".
Enishke (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' choice "is a sign of hope and proximity to the refugees of Mosul, to Christians and to the populations of Iraq and the whole Middle East, from Syria to Lebanon" and confirms an improvement "Of the internal situation".
The news was already rumoured in 2019, but he had preferred to postpone "not because he had some fear for himself, but to avoid putting ordinary people in danger,” says Fr. Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The priest was commenting on the announcement of the apostolic journey of the Argentine pontiff to the Arab country in early March, and a source of joy for Christians and Muslims. He adds “the government proved decisive, having sent the invitation several times and having laid the foundations for its realization that will benefit Christians, Muslims, Yazidis ... everyone! ".
For the parish priest of Enishke, one of the beneficiaries of the AsiaNews campaign "Adopt a Christian from Mosul", it is an "unexpected announcement" although "there has been a desire to welcome a pope since before the year 2000".
John Paul II "had expressed the desire to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, then the political and economic embargo, the war, the fall of Saddam Hussein and the jihadist violence made hopes fade".
Today Iraq "needs" the pope's visit, to show "that it is a secular, democratic country, in which the various communities are equal and the laws work and to overcome the divisions and wounds of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) ". The nation is emerging from the tunnel, but "there is still a lot to work on from the government to regional nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have used us as their battleground."
The Chaldean primate, Card Louis Raphael Sako, has issued a message affirming that the apostolic journey will be "an opportunity for unity and support" for Eastern Christians and "comfort" for all Iraqis, to overcome the past wounds. The Pope's presence is also a return to the roots of the faith and a call to be witnesses of Christ in one's own land, above and beyond persecution.
The message launched by the pontiff, continues Fr. Samir, "is that Iraq is a new country where everyone can live in peace, with a political class that seeks support from outside". The announcement made in recent days "has had a wide echo in the media and social networks, not only on the Facebook pages of Christians but also among Sunni Muslims, Shiites and Yazidis. All the main television channels have given wide coverage to the story, testifying to a climate of greater serenity, security and attention to Iraq as a nation".
The joy is great "even among the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain who are still here, in Iraqi Kurdistan: many would like to go and see the Pope, but not everyone will be able to do so".
Fr. Samir From underlines the hopes that, "the visit is not just a momentary joy, but can help improve the situation after the devastation of Isis" and the "socio-economic tensions of recent weeks, which have triggered street protests in Sulaymaniyya and Erbil ”.
"The faithful see him as a father, to be embraced and to whom to entrust their problems ... the hope is that their voice will reach the pontiff even if they cannot be close to him".
“The Pope's journey - concludes Fr. Samir - is a message of encouragement, an invitation to be faithful to Christ, to believe in divine providence, to entrust oneself to the rock represented by the Church and the love of God, trusting in spite of all evil, war, violence. This visit will be a source of joy, of happiness because it is the concrete presence of the one who brings peace in the name of Jesus”.