President and new Patriarch: Iraqi Christians’ hopes and fears this Christmas
(AsiaNews) - The Iraqi Church is approaching Christmas in the midst of fears of
possible violence, anxiety about the health of President Jalal Talabani and the
hope for a future of peace in a country still shaken by tensions, terrorist
attacks and wars for power . The
head of state has now been moved to Germany for new treatments, after a stroke
that struck on December 17 last. To
fuel uncertainty the resignation - received yesterday by Benedict XVI - of Cardinal
Emmanuel Delly, the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, the s most populous
and representative Christian community' in Iraq. His
successor will be elected at the synod of bishops convened by the pope in Rome
for the end of January 2013, with the task of leading a church marked by
divisions and fears, giving confidence to a community more than halved since
the U.S. invasion in 2003, which led to the fall Saddam Hussein.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, tells AsiaNews that "Iraqi Christians are prepared" for the difficulties "they have been forced to endure for years." The prelate hopes that Christmas will "bring to pass what the angels say: peace on earth." Peace and security in Iraq, he adds, are in fact the most heartfelt and sincere greetings among Christians, with the hope they may be extended "to the Middle East in general and the whole world."
The churches of the capital, continues Msgr. Warduni, "are setting up nativity scenes, Christmas trees" and the priests preparing the Mass, which "will not take place at midnight, but at 7 pm to facilitate the presence of the faithful and to ensure greater security." With regard to the political situation, the prelate confirms that "divisions persist between the north, center and south, exacerbated by the illness of the President", but "we all hope that things will get better." Finally, a reference to the new, future leader of the Iraqi Chaldean Church: "We want a Patriarch - says Msgr. Warduni - who does the will of God for the good of his Church. We all have to work with him, in the name of unity and 'love of God, strengthening the elements of cooperation and dialogue. "
Iraq's future and the responsibilities of the new Patriarch also concern Msgr. Louis Sako, the Archbishop of Kirkuk in the north. He says the choice of "a good shepherd, who works for the unity of Christians" will be crucial. The new leader, he adds, will "also have to consider pastoral and liturgical reforms and restructure the dioceses, especially small ones." He will be called upon to provide signals of "renewal at all levels, especially in the religious and spiritual formation of seminarians and lay people." At a national level, the prelate, must play "a positive role in reconciliation" and also to create a "patriarchal curia: a daunting task, this is why we need someone sent from heaven."
Archbishop Sako hopes that the people can finally live a Christmas of "trust and confidence" in the future, despite the tensions and uncertainties that characterize today's reality, "Let us pray for the country - he concludes - so that Iraqis can live together without violence and fear. The nation must develop and can not afford to miss new opportunities. "