12/19/2011, 00.00
IRAQ

Kirkuk, Msgr. Sako inaugurates memorial to Christian martyrs during U.S. occupation

Joseph Mahmoud
Louis Sako has blessed the monument that commemorates the 36 victims since Operation "Iraqi Freedom" in 2003. On the star engraved the names of the fallen, surmounted by a statue of the Sacred Heart with open arms "to bless the families." Archbishop of Kirkuk: Christians "bridge" that "unites cultures."
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, has blessed the memorial (pictured) commemorating the 36 Christian martyrs of the city, since the U.S. invasion in 2003 to today. The ceremony took place yesterday, in conjunction with the fourth Sunday of Advent, the monument bears the engraved names of all Christians who have died during these eight years, a testimony of ecumenism that distinguishes, local sources tell AsiaNews, this "multi-ethnic city at the centre of struggles for power. "

At the top of the memorial a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who is also patron of the Cathedral of Kirkuk, "with open arms" in a gesture of welcome to the faithful and "blessing and courage to the families" of victims of the war.

During the ceremony inaugurating the monument, Mgr. Louis Sako said that "the blood of martyrs is precious" and is a "gesture of reconciliation for all Iraqis", especially in recent weeks in which the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country has been completed. "We are living in preparation for Christmas - added the archbishop - which announces peace on earth for all people of good will." For this, he concludes, "we Christians are called to become a bridge" to be able to "unite all cultures."

The ceremony for the monument to Christian martyrs was also attended by five doctors of Italian origin, who arrived yesterday in northern Iraq on a humanitarian mission sponsored by Msgr. Sako. The prelate asked for their willingness to treat a group of patients, regardless of their professed religion, "a demonstration - concludes the archbishop – of the solidarity of Christians" to all citizens.

The memorial of Christian martyrs, commemorates the eight years of civil war that ensued after the American led invasion of March 2003 - "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein and unleashed a bloody internal conflict. On 15 December last, in a solemn military ceremony, the U.S. flag was lowered and with it the last 4 thousand troops in the area began their journey home where they are due to arrive before December 31. The war has cost the lives of 4500 American soldiers - and about one million dollars - and the lives of more than 100 thousand Iraqis.

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