08/14/2004, 00.00
POPE - LOURDES - IRAQ
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Despite violence and terrorism Christians and Muslims gather at Komane shrine

Komane (AsiaNews) – Terrorism and bombs have not dampened the faith of thousands of Iraqis who will make the pilgrimage today and tomorrow to the northern Iraqi town of Komane at the same time as the Pope visits Lourdes.

Many Iraqis in the US, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon will also make the journey to the Marian Sanctuary of Komane, one of the oldest in the country.

Iraqi Christians will brave terrorism and ongoing dangers to show the strength of their Christian faith and their attachment to Mary.

Several buses did leave Baghdad yesterday and are leaving today in direction of the sanctuary. They are part of the 3,000 or so pilgrims who, every year, make the journey to Komane on August 15 on the solemnity of Mary's Dormition, which is how the Eastern Christians call the Assumption.

Among the pilgrims many will be Muslims for in their tradition Mariam (Mary) is the mother of the prophet Issa (Jesus).

In preparation for the journey people give up meat and eggs for 5 days eating only fruit and vegetables so as to be spiritually ready for the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage features the agape, the communal feast to which all are invited, performed in dining rooms near the shrine.

Komane families prepare special dishes for the occasion such as kebbe, a dish of ground meat and rice, which they share with Christian and Muslim pilgrims.

Komane is an Assyrian town founded 3,000 years ago. In the age of Ancient Assyria its surrounding region was inhabited by many Jewish communities. In the 2nd century A.D. they converted to Christianity.

Tow monasteries, one dedicated to Saint Ciriaco and the other to the Virgin Mary, were built in the town during the 4th century.

In Komane Christians solemnly celebrate two Feast Days, Saint Ciriaco on July 15, and Mary, Mother of Jesus, on August 15, the day of her Dormition. (LF)

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