07/17/2008, 00.00
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Iraqi WYD, so far from Sydney, so close to the Pope’s heart

For security reasons, no Iraqi was granted a visa for Australia. Still conferences, pilgrimages, catecheses and satellite TV hook-ups with Sydney were organised. The Church in Iraq is alive, closely linked to the universal Church, says Mgr Rabban.

Arbil (AsiaNews) – Thousands of young Iraqis are gathering in various northern Iraqi cities to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD). For security reasons and concerns over possible defections, Australia did not grant young Iraqis any visa for Sydney. Instead the latter decided with their bishops to take part in local WYD-associated catecheses and celebrations as well as salient moments in Sydney itself via satellite TV.

“The Church in Iraq, especially in the North is alive and active, closely linked to the universal Church,” said Mgr Rabban al-Qas, bishop of Arbil and Amadiya.

To strengthen its ties with the Pope in Sydney, he sent the Holy Father a telegram.

In the dioceses of Arbil, Kirkuk, Alqosh, Karaqosj, Zakho and Amadiya, conferences and catecheses were organised.

At the end of the catecheses and afternoon meetings groups of young people met to share a meal in a quiet and fraternal ambiance, very different from the one they have become used to after years of war.

Mgr Louis Sako, bishop of Kirkuk, calls it an “historic event” that shows the “willingness of young people to bear witness to their faith even in a sea of difficulties and suffering.”

Tomorrow young people from Arbil, Alqosh and Zakho will gather together, about 2,000 strong, for a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Iraqi martyr Sultana Mahdokh (4th century), in the village of Araden.

On Sunday, Iraq’s WYD will end with celebrations in Kirkuk. Groups of Catholics from Lebanon, Australia and France will also be present.

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