07/14/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - IRAQ
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Pope prays for the conversion of those who persecute Iraqi Christians

In a message to Cardinal Delly, Benedict XVI assures his prayer and his spiritual closeness to the Catholic and Orthodox communities affected by the attacks. Patriarch’s appeal for a "spirit of tolerance."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has expressed his spiritual closeness to Baghdad’s Christian community victim of a series of attacks, adding that he also prays for the perpetrators of such acts, so that their hearts will be converted.

In the message signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, and addressed to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the Pope assures his prayers and his spiritual closeness to the Catholic and Orthodox communities of the Iraqi capital. The Pope - the message reads - "prays for a conversion of heart of the perpetrators of violence and encourages the authorities to do everything they can to promote a just and peaceful coexistence of all sectors of the Iraqi people."

Reporting on the papal message, the Osservatore Romano writes that "Iraqi authorities and religious representatives - who, in recent days, had emphasized their joy at the apparent return of a more serene climate - fear that the attacks of the last few hours will unleash a new wave of sectarian violence in the country. 'We are saddened by what is happening in Iraq - Cardinal Delly said in a statement released overnight by Iraqi television - because the attacks today target sites that in the past, during the war, served as a refuge for Christians and Muslims'. The cardinal has condemned the attacks against Christian churches and mosques and has launched an appeal that a "spirit of tolerance” be maintianed

For his part, the prosecutor of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See, Monsignor Philip Najim, said that "they want to eliminate Christians from Iraq and it is clear that this is not related to episodes of resistance against an invader, but a process of violence that aims to slow the development of the country, its peace. They want a weak underdeveloped Iraq, and with the disappearance of its Christian component an important part of society would be lost".   Meanwhile, yesterday in Mosul, a curfew on vehicles was imposed in predominantly Christian neighbourhoods, to prevent other possible terrorist attacks.
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