Baghdad ( AsiaNews) - We will help Christians to return to the province, giving them a piece of land to cultivate and creating job opportunities and development for those who have fled in the past because of violence and insecurity. This was underlined by the Shiite leader Majid Al- Nasrawi, Governor of Basra (in southern Iraq , on the border with Kuwait) since June 2013, during his meeting with His Beatitude Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church as the local leaders. The summit (pictured) took place last week, in conjunction with the celebrations for the arrival of the new bishop (Hormuz Habib Al- Nofaly ) to the Diocese of Iraq. It was a moment of joy and celebration for the whole Christian community, who welcomed the new pastor during a Eucharistic celebration.
The Governor of Basra decided to organize a festive dinner to pay tribute to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Christian delegation that accompanied him. Those present - in addition to the delegates of the provincial council - included the new bishop of the city, the apostolic nuncio in Iraq Msgr. Giorgio Lingua, the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad Shlemon Warduni, some Chaldean Sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary and other prelates.
During the meeting, Al- Majid Nasrawi expressed his "joy" at visit of the Christian leadership, confirming the strong bond that unites the province with its Christian citizens, he also urged the bishops to "persuade families to stay and encourage those who fled to return".
The Chaldean Patriarch confirmed the Iraqi Churches particular concern for the south of the country, and in particular the city of Basra, a witness of the first steps of Christianity in the area with the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle. The appointment of a new bishop, after 10 years of vacant see, confirms a renewed commitment to the local Christian community. Mar Sako and the bishops were also welcomed by delegations from Nasiriyah, from the city of Ur, tribal leaders and foreign diplomatic missions, including representatives of the U.S., Iranian and Turkish missions.
As part of the visit, the Chaldean leaders celebrated a solemn Mass in the Church of Mar Afram, praying "for the good of Basra and its new bishop", and calling on all to contribute to the common effort to bring peace, love and harmony to the region. During the liturgy Mar Sako repeatedly pointed out the need for a "peaceful coexistence" between the different souls of the city and the nation. Msgr. Habib Hormuz Al-Nofaly focused his attention on the need for Bible studies, and hoped that Basra could become a "model" for other dioceses in the country.
The diocese is home to more than 200 Chaldean Christian families, as well as small representation of Catholics, Armenian Catholic and Syrian Orthodox. For some time the Iraqi Church has been attempting to counter the exodus of the Christian community, which in ten years has more than halved. Before the U.S. invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, there were more than one million faithful but today, according to recent estimates, there are only about 300 thousand left.