Chaldean patriarch thanks pope for sharing Iraq's "anguish and suffering"

Emmanuel Delly, Chaldean patriarch, thanked Benedict XVI for supporting two days of prayer and fasting for peace and security in Iraq. The country's Muslims have also joined in the appeal. Hundreds of people are killed every day across Iraq.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly is above all grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for joining in two days of prayer and fasting for peace and security in Iraq. And he has stressed that this move he proposed is also shared and spread by the country's Schiite and Sunni communities who are making the event known through the media in Iraq and the Arab world. In an interview with AsiaNews, the Chaldean patriarch said that at the end of the two days of fasting, he will celebrate Mass in the cathedral, in the presence of Muslim figures who "want to pray with us".

"We don't have any other way to arrive at peace in the Iraqi family," said the patriarch. In recent months, after the positive launch of the constitution and parliamentary elections, after the return of the Sunni boycott, a series of killings and religiously motivated terrorist attacks between Sunnis and Shiites make the formation of an Iraqi government difficult. "How many dead, how many murders every day!" said Patriarch Delly. "We cannot keep going on like this." According to official statistics, 900 Iraqis were killed in March. The insecurity, especially in the capital and in mixed areas, has prompted around 35,000 people to flee to other parts of the country. Below is the interview of Patriarch Delly with AsiaNews in full.

Beatitude, what is the meaning behind these two days of prayer and fasting?

We have no other way to arrive at peace in the Iraqi family, if not by prayer and fasting. All the other paths are closed because of particular interests. We want to turn to the Lord because he gives us peace and security. How many dead, how many murders in one day! Every day, hundreds of people are killed. We cannot keep going on like this. So I turned to the Lord and I planned these two days, 3 and 4 April, to pray and fast for Iraq and also for the rest of the world.  I thank the Holy Father from my heart because he wanted to share our sufferings and our anguish.

Is your gesture also shared by the Muslim and Schiite communities?

We proposed this gesture, but it pleased all our brothers and sisters in Iraq, Christians and Muslims. The message is being spread by all television broadcasts and newspapers in Iraq and outside.

Have you received a specific sign of appreciation from the Muslims?

All Muslims have welcomed and are spreading the idea. The day after tomorrow, when the two days of prayer and fasting are over, a Mass will be held in the Cathedral, and Christians will attend as well as Muslim personalities. The Muslims want to pray with us too.

What is Iraq's most urgent need?

The most urgent need for all Iraqis, Christians and Muslims, is security. All nations are helping us by offering us plenty of food aid and more, but we need peace and security. Otherwise, every time we go out of the house, we don't know if we will come back alive or dead.

What can we westerners do?

Do everything possible to guarantee security for us and work for peace in the world. Continue to pray: today we are in need; tomorrow another country may be in need. Mankind is one whole family.