02/07/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Ordination of three Chaldean deacons “real sign of hope” for Iraq Christians

The bishop of Kirkuk was present at the ceremony in Ankawa. He said: “It is a positive sign but the Iraqi Church is experiencing a worrying vacuum at pastoral level.” Kidnappings and threats targeting Christians continue in the north too.

Ankawa (AsiaNews) – “A sign of hope amid so much violence and despair”. This is how Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, described the ordination of three new deacons that took place on 2 February in Ankawa in Kurdistan. The ceremony took place in the Church of St Joseph and was celebrated by the bishop of Amadhyia and Erbil, Mgr Rabban al Qas. Also present were Mgr Mikha Maqdassi, bishop of Al Qosh, and Mgr Sako himself who as lecturer at the local faculty of theology wanted to express his “support” for the seminarians.

Courses offered by the Chaldean Major Seminary of St Peter and Babel College, the only Christian theological faculty in Iraq, resumed officially last month in Ankawa, after the forced relocation of both institutions from Baghdad, which had become too dangerous.

The ordained deacons are Salar Soulayman Bodagh of the diocese of Al Qosh, Raymond Hamid Sargis of Baghdad and Louya' Gilyana Dinkha from Mosul. Already last month, on 27 January, Wassim Sabih Youssif was ordained in Baghdad. In the coming days, four Syro-Catholic deacons will be ordained: Raid Adil Fatohi and Mazin Isho' Mattoccha in Mosul on 9 February; Ammar Abdullahad Ayub and Nuhad Sabih Alcas Moussa on 16 February.

Speaking about the new ordinations, Mgr Sako described them as “real signs of hope amid so much violence.” And he talked about the latest threats to the Christian community and the umpteenth kidnapping. “A Catholic from Karaqosh, Abdul Khaliq Bakos, the brother of a Dominican Sister, was kidnapped a few days ago in Baghdad; an hour after the kidnapping, his relatives paid the ransom demanded only to find him dead two days later.” The man had three children. The bishop continued: “In Kirkuk, some Christian doctors left the city after receiving a letter asking for an enormous sum of money to be delivered on pain of death.”

Mgr Sako said the insecurity that threatened the daily life of all Iraq’s communities had created “a real vacuum at pastoral level” in the church. Meanwhile evangelical groups that arrived with the American army are multiplying. The bishop said: “They are conducting aggressive proselytism even among Catholics and Orthodox and they already have 36 new churches in Baghdad alone.”

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