Auxiliary of Baghdad cites papal appeal warning politicians, supporting all Iraqis

For Mgr Warduni, young protesters need to feel "our solidarity and closeness". The pontiff "has at heart" the future of the nation, not only of Christians. Problems must be tacked and resolved "from the ground up". Yesterday, Parliament accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mahdi. Protests continue however across the country with more casualties.


Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The appeal of Pope Francis is a source of "great comfort" for all Iraqis, not only Christians, all the more so at a time when Europe and the United States "are doing nothing and waiting to see what happens,” says Mgr Shlemon Audish Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad and right-hand man of Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Bishop Warduni highlighted the pontiff’s latest appeal yesterday in which he expresses “concern” of the “situation” in Iraq. For the prelate, young protesters must feel "our solidarity and closeness" at a time of great tension and change in the country.

The Pope's words come "from someone who wants the good of our country and the whole world, without vested interests and fanaticism.” It is “a very beautiful thing" when the pontiff “says not to harm protesters” because it shows that he "has at heart" the future of the whole nation, where "the vast majority of protesters are Muslims”.

Weeks of anti-government protest have “showed that Christians are also close to their compatriots,” and that everyone "can live together. Indeed, it is precisely in the streets that new friendships develop between Christians and Muslims,” Bishop Warduni said.

"So many young people need reassurance, need to feel good and become a community. Young people wrote ‘God is love’ on the walls,” he noted.

For its part, Iraq’s National Assembly accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who threw in the towel after weeks of anti-government protests. The latter, which began on 1st October, were violently repressed by the police, sparking harsh criticism from, among others, Iraq’s highest Shia religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Now “The Iraqi parliament will ask the president of state to nominate a new prime minister,” the parliament’s media office said in a statement. But Mr Mahdi and his cabinet will remain in office as a caretaker government until a new one takes office.

Under the Constitution, President Barham Salih will now ask the largest bloc in Parliament to name a new prime minister, tasked with picking a new cabinet.

Analysts and experts believe that the new current political uncertainty risks leading to weeks of further tensions and clashes between different factions.

The prime minister’s resignation will not be enough, however, to placate protesters, as evinced by the latest developments.

In fact, protesters yesterday set fire to the Iranian consulate in Najaf for a second time in a week. In the capital Baghdad, as well as in the most important cities of the south, a Shia-majority region, thousands of people continue to fill streets.

The death toll continues to increase. In two months, the number of deaths has reached 450, with thousands wounded in an unending trail of blood.

Yesterday security forces killed a protester in Baghdad, wounding nine others. Two deaths were reported in Nasiriyah. In Basra a crowd marched through the streets of the city dressed in black to honour the dead.

During the weekend, university students in Mosul, Tikrit, Anbar and Kirkuk, Sunni-majority areas hitherto less involved in the protest, also took to the streets.

Students wanted posted videos of the rally on social media to show their solidarity with the victims of the protests in Nasiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad.

“The Iraqi people is behind this protest movement,” Bishop Warduni noted. “The Church is close to their feelings and demands. If the government really wants the good of the nation it must face the problems from the ground up.”

"Changing the prime minister or this or that minister is not enough,” he explained. Political leaders should “heed the Pope’s words who urges us not to harm young people who have the right to work, live a peaceful life, and think about the future.”