04/02/2006, 00.00
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Two days of prayer and fasting for peace and harmony in Iraq

Benedict XVI makes his own an appeal by the Iraqi bishops

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI has joined in an appeal made by the Chaldean Patriarch, His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad, launching it anew to the whole world. The patriarch and all the Iraqi bishops have called for two days of prayer and fasting on 3 and 4 April, "to ask God for the gift of peace and harmony in Iraq and the whole world". Speaking from the window of his study at the end of today's Angelus prayer, Benedict XVI said: "I invite all to join in the initiative of our brothers in that martyred country, entrusting it to the intercession of the most Blessed Mary, Queen of Peace". The appeal, in the intentions of the pope and the patriarch, is levelled at "faithful, believers, and men of goodwill". The pope added: "It is an important appeal, directed to our hearts, and an invitation from my part too.

For several weeks now, Iraq has been marked by attacks of an ethnic-religious nature: killings of Schiites and Sunnis and blasts in mosques and shrines. This violence of a religious nature coincides with difficulties faced to form a new government, as well as pressure for the resignation of Ibrahim al-Jafaari, linked to Schiite integralism and seen by other elements – Sunnis, Kurds and secular Schiites – as a threat to the new Iraq. The situation is rendered more unstable still thanks to the presence of foreign terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and Iran.

Worries and a lack of security have an impact on Christians in the country, who are tempted to emigrate. Some weeks ago, Patriarch Delly himself told AsiaNews that many Christians "seek shelter in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, while others join relatives in the USA and Europe". He added: "Everyone wants to have a safer place", even if "nearly no one wants to leave his homeland indefinitely".

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