Rome (AsiaNews) - A special mass in memory of the victims of the attack on October 31 on the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad will be celebrated this afternoon at the Vatican by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches. Injured survivors will take part in the celebration who have been hospitalized since November 12 at the Gemelli hospital in Rome. Almost a month after the terrible attack by Islamic extremists which killed 57 people, AsiaNews publishes the testimony of Fr Aysar Saaed, a young priest in Iraq. In Italy for studies since 2005, Fr. Saaed has been busy assisting the 26 survivors of the massacre and organising his return home tomorrow, ahead of schedule, to be close to the families of the victims who remained in Iraq.
"My parish was attacked - says the priest - I served there as a priest for five years, before coming here to study in Italy. I was supposed to go back next year, during the summer, because I have to finish my thesis. I am leaving everything behind, but it is not important. We feel responsible and want to be with our faithful, with our people, our church, give a sign of hope, of solidarity and comfort to our people. It is a personal decision. "
Fr. Saaed said that for the time being the wounded will remain in Italy. Many of them do not want to return to Baghdad, they are afraid and still in shock. "The world - he says - has not seen nothing of the massacre, even though we have tried to show photos of the church and victims, but you can imagine, there was blood everywhere on the floor, on walls, candles, on vestments . Everything was soaked with blood. " "The most important thing - father Saaed points out - is to treat the wounded also at a psychological level, because they have experienced a terrible moment. They spent 4 -5 hours of hell. Many of them did not believe they would get out alive, they expected to die there like the others. They saw their family members fall in front of them".
Despite the tragedy and cruelty of this attack, Fr. Saaed stresses that the Church of Our Lady of Salvation has become a symbol of unity for Iraqi Christians. "Our church hit by the attack offers us an important sign: the church is Syro Catholic rite, but the martyrs were not only our own, there were Chaldeans, Siro-catholics, Syro Orthodox. The martyrs were divided among many rites, but this church [of Baghdad] was a symbol of a united Church”.
"We in Iraq – he continues - we are Christians, but divided into many different rites: Most are Chaldeans, then there are the Syro Catholics, Syro Orthodox, Assyrian, Armenian Catholics and Armenian Orthodox, Melkite Catholics and Melkite Orthodox, the Latin Church, Protestants, evangelicals. But before anyone is called Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian, they are called Christian. Today, with all the chaos that the Americans brought, even the Church has emphasized these differences. But we do not need this. The 2005 Constitution does not say Christian people, it says 'the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac' people. But can you do a thing like that? Where are the Armenians? Are they not Christians? Are the Melkites not Christians? The Latins, are they not Christians? So? What is the point in all this? Who was wrong? The community leaders. All of them, because today we are Christians, nothing more. "
Fr. Saaed emphasizes that today all Iraqis, Christians and Muslims have a responsibility, especially in telling the truth. "The things - he says - must be named as they are, which means telling the truth as it is. White or black, although the truth may cost. It cost us the lives of 58 people, plus 70 wounded. This is the truth. So we can no longer go the diplomatic route, the diplomatic route today is not an option, I regret to say, today we must use all the moral force available to us, not only to condemn, denounce this act of violence, but to call it as it is: evil, death does not bring good to human life. It brings misery and suffering. "
"So - he adds - we need everyone's contribution, the contribution of all religions to nurture and raise a new generation: one that knows what ethnic, political and religious tolerance means, that knows what peace means. The gift of peace is important for human life. A generation that knows that differences are like a gift, a treasure, not the cause of suffering, that knows what it means when we say the other is my brother, my friend, the meaning of fundamental human rights, that everyone has the right to be full citizens, there is no first class or second-class. A generation that respects and values life, and in this we must all engage, with good will, with the help of God, the Lord, to nurture a new generation. Only then can we help our country”.
Looking towards Christmas Fr. Saaed, said: "I do not know with what spirit we will prepare for Christmas. The people here are tired, wounded in body and spirit. We'll go to church, but only to pray for peace. And to remember our Lord Jesus who became a child in a stable, to bring mercy and salvation to us all. "