07/02/2005, 00.00
IRAQ - YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
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Iraqi youths searching for God "like water in the desert"

Komane (AsiaNews) – They defied dangers and obstacles to travel in a country at war, they came together in Komane, northern Iraq, from Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Manghesh, in search of God "like water in the desert". They are 45 Iraqi youths who participated in a spiritual retreat from 24 to 30 June in a centre put at their disposal by the bishop of Amadiyah, Mgr Rabban al-Qas, in Kurdistan. "The north of the country is the only safe place for such a meeting," said one of the organizers.

The theme of the meeting – which takes place each year – was linked to the Year of the Eucharist. The whole initiative was started back in 1996 by six girls undertaking parish work, with the encouragement of Mgr Luis Sako, then rector of Iraq's main seminary.

Nada Al Rayyes, one of the organisers of this year's meeting, said: "Despite the difficulties we continue to resist because we are convinced it is necessary to keep this still-young tradition alive."

The program included pastoral, human and spiritual elements. The day was divided into times of catechism, manual and domestic work, prayer in the morning and at night. Local priests were invited to lead reflections on themes like the Holy Spirit in every day life, and personal vocation in the light of the Eucharist.

"It's like seeing people searching for water in the desert," said Nada. "All the youths who take part go home different: those who before the meeting did not attend church regularly often start to get involved in parish activities."

Fr Ragheed Ganni of Mosul, who participated in the retreat, said "what the youths ask the Holy Spirit for most today is the strength to remain optimistic even when everything around seems hopeless." The priest said the Holy Spirit's renewal in the hearts of the youths was crucial "to make them aware that when we search for good, we can find light even in the darkness."

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