In Baghdad, the Chaldean patriarch led a prayer vigil on the eve of the Pope’s arrival. For many, his presence is considered an invitation to remain in the country and build bridges with the world. Young people have the task of keeping their presence alive. The warning to politicians to overturn their "Pharisaic" attitude (Part II).
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - In Iraq, everything is ready for the upcoming apostolic journey of Pope Francis, expected tomorrow in a nation that is struggling – notwithstanding difficulties - to recover from years of conflicts and sectarian violence. The visit will unfold along three lines: Meeting the Christian community, relations and dialogue with different religions, in particular Christians and Shiite Islam, and the political and institutional crisis that the Arab nation has been experiencing for almost twenty years. . Yesterday the Chaldean patriarchate organized an evening of prayer in the cathedral of St. Joseph, in Baghdad, led by the patriarch Card. Louis Raphael Sako (photo 4).
AsiaNews has gathered a series of voices and testimonies, to better understand the themes that characterize the apostolic journey and the strength of a nation attempting to recover and feel a little joy, after a year of lockdown due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
We share these thoughts and expectations thanks to the collaboration of Fr Paolo Thabit Mekko, head of the Christian community in Karamles, in the Nineveh plain, and of Fr. Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Here are their words (Part II. For Part I click here):
Eshak Yaqo Esho, farmer and pensioner, 72 years old, from Enishle (Iraqi Kurdistan)
The Pope's visit is an invitation to all of us Christians, to remain in Iraq, to remain firm in our land, the land of our fathers and grandfathers, so that our children can keep this cultural and faith heritage alive. And so that they can continue this living faith in the land of Mesopotamia. On a personal level, I am very happy: when I was a child, in the old village when we talked about the pope we imagined someone who lives in another world, or in heaven. However very far away, close to Christ. Despite the coronavirus, I want to follow this visit and pray for its success, because it's a divine blessing right now. I also hope it can strengthen peaceful coexistence, as brothers in humanity: we have suffered a lot, but we want to live in peace and I expect the pope to remind us that we are responsible for this land. Especially the young, it is up to them to keep the Christian presence alive.
Rami Saddeeq, 30 years old university teacher, Karamles
We are very excited about the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Iraq. This event has great significance and special importance for Christians living in Iraq, because it will give them hope, strength and courage to stay in this country. We have our roots here and we say to his holiness "Welcome to Iraq, welcome to Mesopotamia".
Marvin Zaya Shamoon, 32-year-old government employee from Amadya
I consider the Pope’s visit above all a sign of support for Iraq’s Christians and a confirmation of the importance of their presence. Their existence continues, despite all the difficulties. It has always been my dream to see a pontiff, but due to visa difficulties I have never been able to go to the Vatican and attend mass. Now the pope is coming here making my dream come true, I will be able to see the man of peace, the successor of Peter, our rock, our rock on which the Lord built his Church up close. All the stages of the journey are very interesting and I hope that all the religious and political leaders listen well to his words, learning what “we are all brothers” means. I expect the pope to tell the leaders of our country, especially those in Baghdad, to preserve the Christian presence in Iraq and in the Middle East, because we are the origin and civilization of this ancient nation, in science and wisdom.
Ashwaq Hannani 48, parish secretary, Karamles
My greatest hope is that the pope, with his trip to Iraq, can bring about changes in the mentality of the country's politicians. First of all by overturning their Pharisaic attitude, so that they will truly work for a service to the nation and its people.
Zenna Yousif Toma, 30, teacher, Baghdad
We waited for the coming of His Holiness with enthusiasm, joy and participation. The first time for a pontiff in Iraq, itis a historic event. And the stages of his visit are a further motivation to work with a view to dialogue and coexistence among all Iraqis. We wait, and we hope in this visit, to spread peace across the nation.
Samer Moner Butros, 25 year old singer of the parish choir, Mosul
The pope’s visit will change the world’s perspective on Iraq, which is not just a nation of war but aspires to peace and coexistence. We await full of joy, especially in this unstable and difficult situation for the new coronavirus pandemic. We need this joy, after a difficult year of many lockdowns. His presence will help to revive a new country, thanks also to the union of intentions between all ethnic groups, sects and religions. And from the pope I expect speeches marked by concrete and true coexistence, a law that is the same for all, the common foundation of citizenship and the creation of bridges between Iraqis and the world.