07/08/2011, 00.00
IRAQ

New ‘Three Fountains Church’ near Kirkuk, a sign of hope

Joseph Mahmoud
A new Chaldean church is inaugurated in the village of Sikanayan, some 10 kilometres from Kirkuk. Representatives of different religious and ethnic groups took part in the ceremony. During the function, Archbishop Louis Sako encouraged Christians to stay in the country and bear witness to their faith with confidence and courage.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – A new Chaldean parish church was inaugurated yesterday in Sikanayan, a village some 10 kilometres from Kirkuk. It bears the name of Saint Paul the Apostle because the village’s Kurdish name means ‘Three Fountains’, like the Three Fountains Church in Rome built on the site where the apostle was martyred. The small settlement has about 200 homes, some still under construction. Residents were given a free land grant.

The church was opened to the public on Monday with a Mass officiated by Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk. In his homily, the prelate encouraged Christians to remain in the country to bear witness to their faith with confidence and courage.

Provincial leaders as well as sheikhs and imams attended yesterday’s official inauguration.

The choir sang hymns and psalms. A joint prayer was red by an Arab Muslim sheikh, a Kurd and a Turkmen

An imam followed this with an unrehearsed well-wishing prayer to ensure that the site will always be holy and that Christians may continue to pray and praise the Lord.

“A church, like a mosque, is a special place to worship God in spirit and truth,” the archbishop said in his speech. “To the extent that such places reflect God’s beauty, truth, love, mercy and forgiveness, they are holy.”

“For us, this is its vertical dimension. A Church is the ‘House of God’, but that is not enough. There is also a horizontal dimension. A church’s role is also to instil great and noble values in the hearts of the faithful, values like goodness, love, charity, honesty, generosity and cooperation, and to keep away evil, hatred and violence. In this case, a church is also a ‘House of the People’.”

“Let us give thanks to God today in this holy place, where we worship the one God and glorify him, not only in words, but also in deeds and daily relations,” Mgr Sako said.

“We need one another and cannot be isolated from one another, living alone, because isolation is a slow death. Openness is a sign of renewed life and growth,” he said. “Let us hope to continue our Christian presence among our brothers, Muslims and others, in stability, security and dignity.”

“On this occasion,” the archbishop noted, “I would like to thank all those who contributed not only to this church, but also to this microcosm and to the mosaic of Kirkuk. The people of Kirkuk must remain united and work together for better times.”

In his address, the president of the municipal council, a Turkmen, stressed the role played by Christians in Iraq’s civilisation, noting their open spirit, morality and loyalty towards Iraq.
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