06/10/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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The Little Sisters of Jesus, 50 years among the poor and the marginalised of Iraq

Celebrations for the 50 years of the mission of the Sisters of Charles de Foucauld are underway in northern Iraq and Baghdad

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Celebrations in northern Iraq and in Baghdad marking the 50th anniversary of the Mission of the Little Sisters of Jesus in Iraq have been underway since yesterday; they are expected to include several activities and last until the end of July.

In Mosul, they began at the Monastery of St George with a mass co-celebrated by Mgr Georges Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Bishop of Mosul, and Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, Archbishop of the Chaldean Church.

The celebration of the Eucharist was followed by the inauguration of a photo gallery to honour the Sisters' presence not only in Iraq but also around the world.

The order was founded in 1939 by Magdeleine Hutin who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld, in particular by going to North Africa.

Sister Najeeba Jesus, who lives in Mosul, told AsiaNews the history of the order's presence in Iraq.

"When Sister Magdeleine learnt about the presence of Christians in the Middle East, living side by side with their Muslim brethren in one country, she strongly felt in her heart the desire to go to them," she said.

"After visiting Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, she eventually came to Iraq twice, in 1952 and 1954, where she met the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Yousif Ghaneema.

In 1955, Sister Magdeleine sent two fellow sisters to Aqra, a town in the region of Nineveh where Christians and Kurds lived together. They opened their first convent and began living a simple and humble life," Sister Najeeba explained.

The Little Sisters of Jesus have always chosen to live wherever poverty, marginalisation and violence exist. In the countries where they exist they have embraced local customs and in the East they have adopted Eastern rites out of fascination for the spiritual depth of the local liturgy and a desire to become an integral part of the local Church.

Today, the order has more 1,300 members, some 18 are in Iraq, but only 9 who are Iraqi; the rest work in Lebanon, Italy and France.

The Little Sisters are also in Afghanistan, where they constituted the only Catholic presence from 1994 to 2002.

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