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from issue no. 03 - 2005

An account from the Patriarch of the Chaldees

Prayers for Iraq’s sickness

«Iraq has special need of your prayers today, of the prayers of your dear readers and, for our part, we Iraqis can only thank everyone for their prayers, for everything that they do for the good of our country»

by Emmanuel III Delly

The Patriarch of the Chaldees Emmanuel III Delly

The Patriarch of the Chaldees Emmanuel III Delly

We met the Patriarch of the Chaldees Emmanuel III Delly during the days in February when he made his first visit to Rome since his election in December 2003. We are sure that the sick Pope derived joy and comfort from the embrace of this faithful and intelligent pastor. Emmanuel III Delly saw the Pope on 19 February last. In the audience with the Patriarch of the Chaldees, lasting about half an hour, the Pope was engrossed and asked specific questions on the situation in the country and on the life of the Iraqi Christian communities.
At the request of 30Days to tell us, from his unique point of observation, what is really happening in Iraq, the Patriarch gave us this account, that by common consent we print here.

(G.C. and D.M.)

First of all I offer my heartfelt thanks to the magazine 30Days that is doing good not only in Italy but throughout the world and, in a particular way, to the Church, spreading Christian doctrine. To give Christ to people, this is the mission of 30Days, this it should be. Of course, it must take an interest in everything, but the sole interest should be that of giving Christ to souls and then the Lord will bless the magazine, that is doing and will do good, not only to Italian readers, but to all the world. I ask the Lord to bless the editor of the magazine, his staff and the magazine itself, so that it may be a means to bestow grace not only on the world but on all mankind.
I am sure that you have come to visit the Patriarch of the Chaldees in the world, Emmanuel III Delly, to ask him how the situation in Iraq is. So many journalists come to Iraq and ask me: «How are things going for the Christians in Iraq?» I immediately reply: «I don’t like that question. Why don’t you instead ask me how is it with the Iraqis? Because what happens to the Christians also happens to the Moslems, who are our brethren, and what happens to the Moslems also happens to the Christians. Then ask me how it goes for the Iraqis». Well, Iraq is sick now and needs economic medicine, spiritual medicine, medicine for all the ills it is now suffering. For our part we have a great hope: that these medicines arrive and do good to Iraq, that will hence be cured and will do good to other countries, near and far. Iraq is a rich country, a country that, especially in recent years, has had the eyes of the world turned on it. I thank all the world for the prayers that have been said for Iraq. Iraq would have fallen lower if it had not been for the prayers of friends, the prayers raised by so many souls to the Lord that he might look upon our country, preserve it and let it direct its steps toward good. Iraq and the Iraqis have suffered a great deal, all equally, Christians and Moslems, of whatever religion. In fact, we should keep in mind that religion belongs to the Lord, but the country belongs to everyone. So Iraq is for all the Iraqis. All we Iraqis must be united in collaborating for the progress of the country and for its freedom: a real freedom of worship, of culture, of economy; freedom in all things for all the Iraqis. Iraq has special need, of your prayers today, of the prayers of your dear readers and, for our part, we Iraqis can only thank everybody for these prayers, for everything they do for the good of our country.
In Iraq we Christians number almost eight hundred thousand; of these, almost six hundred thousand are Catholics. Of the Catholics, 80% belong to the Chaldean rite (Chaldean means Catholic). There are other Churches in the country: Syro-Catholics, Armeno-Catholics, Melchites, a small group of Maronites, a handful of Syro-Orthodox, Armeno-Orthodox and then the so-called Nestorians, who are known today as the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East. So, the Catholics make up 80% of the Christians living in Iraq. In Baghdad, we Chaldeans alone have twenty-eight parishes, two seminaries, one minor and one major; and we also have male and female religious, the Daughters of Immaculate Mary and the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Then we have the Chaldean monks of the Order of Saint Anthony. We have many vocations but they are now decreasing, however, because of emigration – something that already existed in the past, but that now has reached a peak. Emigration that is not caused either by persecution, that does not exist, or discrimination, that does not exist, but which is due rather to social and economic causes or by going to join Iraqi families resident in foreign countries. In fact what happens is that Iraqis who have emigrated to America or Australia invite the father or the brothers, who thus leave the country and go to live elsewhere. In recent years emigration has increased because of fear and instability and, especially, because of guerrilla activity. For this reason many have emigrated from Iraq. The majority of the emigrants are Moslem because the Moslems are much more numerous than the Christians. Now, in these last months, many people, Moslems and Christians, have left the country also because of the worsening attacks of bandits, groups of men who rob and kidnap people for money. They kidnap children, sisters, brothers and then ask a ransom, and this is frightening many, many souls. It’s true they have attacked the churches, but not only those. The mosques have been subject to attack, as also the places of worship of the Shiites. It’s also true they have kidnapped a bishop and a priest. But they have also abducted as many Moslem religious: mullahs, ulemas and others… a great many people whom we still don’t know where they are, and for whom we are doing everything to get them released. So, it’s not an attack on the Church because they hate the Church, but only because there is great chaos in the country. There are gangs of marauders who kidnap for money; gangs that are putting fear into the population, both Moslem and Christian. These actions may arise out of other reasons, for example political reasons, but I don’t know them.
A baptism in a Catholic church of Baghdad that still bears the marks of the fire in October which all but destroyed it

A baptism in a Catholic church of Baghdad that still bears the marks of the fire in October which all but destroyed it

I don’t know if the Americans should leave the country or not. It’s true, an occupation is an occupation and nobody wants to be occupied by others, and we beg the Lord to free everyone, to save everything that belongs to us in any just and true fashion.
The elections have done good and have served to make known the wish of the people. Many of the Sunni voted; others may perhaps not have voted and they have their reasons. Some Christians also did not vote and have their reasons. The Shiite all voted because they are the majority and they won the majority. Not to vote and remain outside the government is always a loss. We told people: «Vote, if you want to enter the Parliament. Even if you won’t be in government, you can be the opposition». Many Sunni also heard this counsel from their friends, from people who love Iraq, and they voted; but many did not listen to the invitation. Instead almost 95% of the Shiite voted and therefore today have the majority of members elected. They will also have it in the future Parliament that is to put things in order, draft a lasting Constitution. For our part, we hope it will be a just Constitution that assures absolute freedom of worship, of culture, for all Iraqis, without distinctions or discriminations because, as I said earlier, religion is for God, whereas the country is for all.
Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that nothing can help us to heal the sickness of Iraq if not prayer. Let us all pray for Iraq’s recovery; and let me make use of this occasion to thank our Holy Father particularly, who, for so many years, has never ceased praying for Iraq, and all his collaborators, who pray for us, for peace, tranquillity and stability in the country. I thank all the Italians, to whom I offer a particular greeting because I lived for fourteen years in Italy, as a student, so your country became almost my second homeland. I thank the readers, I thank all those who have prayed, are praying and get others to pray for us, that the Lord may give us security and peace. And I ask the Lord, through the intercession of our Heavenly Mother, Mary, blessing on all of you.

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