First communion in Mosul, where shots became "fireworks"

The Chaldean parish priest of the Church of the Holy Spirit talks about the celebration of the first Holy Communion of 80 children while the city was struck by car bombs and shooting. "United, we pray for peace in Iraq and also in Lebanon and the rest of the world."

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Joy and terror sometimes coexist in Iraq where the population is now resigned to daily life amid mortar shots and suicide bombs. This is how the Christians of Mosul, the city's third largest country, will remember 4 August: as a day of "immense joy" and "terrible panic". Violent clashes marked the Friday when 80 children of the Chaldean parish of the Holy Spirit received their first Holy Communion. The young parish priest, Fr Ragheed Ganni, told AsiaNews how he turned gunshots into fireworks not to spoil this special day of celebration.

"We started our celebration at 7.30am," he said. "The church was packed and everybody was so happy. Suddenly we heard explosions and shots close to the church. Although people are used to it and remained reasonably calm, they started to wonder whether they were going to make it back to their homes or not. I was aware of the immense joy of the 80 children receiving their first Communion so I turned the subject into a joke and said to them: 'Do not panic, these are fire works. The city is celebrating with us.' And at the same time I gave them instructions to leave the church quietly and quickly."

By the time the mass ended, violence had spread throughout Mosul. Nine policemen had been killed in a series of attacks. Three car bombs and as many mines went off throughout the city and police posts came under mortar fire. Military reinforcements were called into the city, both local and US troops. The local administration imposed a curfew until the following day and decided to shut down all the town bridges across Tigri River.

But all this did not shake the peace felt by the community of the Holy Spirit. The parish priest added: "We are glad we were able to conclude the preparation of these children while the city was facing such painful and dangerous circumstances. We feel the prayers of thousands of people accompanying us. United with them, we prayed for peace in Iraq, Lebanon and all around the world."