Skip to comments.Baghdad Christians Celebrate Sunday Mass (with Iraq's new Cardinal Delly)
Posted on 12/10/2007 5:54:05 AM PST by NYer
BAGHDAD - The worshippers were searched at the door and snipers stood guard on the roof, but Sunday's Mass was a joyful one for more than 200 Iraqis who packed a church in eastern Baghdad to see the first Iraqi cardinal.
Under heavy guard and broadcast live on Iraqi state television, the service was capped by a handshake from a visiting Shiite imam _ a symbolic show of unity between Iraq's majority Muslim sect and its tiny Christian community.
Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, celebrated the two-hour Mass three weeks after Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the top ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Delly presided over other services this week in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, spreading his message of unity and forgiveness among Iraq's Christians.
"We are of one family, everyone should work for the progress of this country," he said during his sermon.
The frequent target of Islamic extremists, Iraq's Christians have been forced to flee by the tens of thousands or to isolate themselves in barricaded neighborhoods if they choose to remain.
"We pray today for the sake of each other and to forgive each other, as well to be directed to do good deeds," Delly said. "That is my demand for the Iraqis, moreover I urge the return home for displaced people and immigrants to their ancestral land."
Delly, 80, has been outspoken in the past about the need to protect Christians, who comprise less than 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.
Many people who filled the pews at the elegant brick Church of the Virgin Mary said they were taking advantage of a lull in violence to attend services and to congratulate Delly. The imam of a nearby Shiite mosque shook hands with him in the church's courtyard after the service.
"I came here to show the unity of the Iraqi people," said the black-turbaned imam, Jassim al-Jazairi. "We are happy with the cardinal. We are very proud of any person, whether Christian or Muslim, who raises the name of Iraq in the international arena."
The high attendance at the church in mainly Shiite eastern Baghdad was among several recent signs of normalcy in Iraq. Still, the security situation remains fragile in the city, where many Iraqis are still afraid to venture outside the concrete barriers erected by the U.S. military to protect volatile communities.
In a reminder of the dangers, armed policemen wearing helmets and blue uniforms were stationed on the church's roof and others searched worshippers walking toward the stately brick building on Palestine Street, a major thoroughfare in eastern Baghdad. Several police pickup trucks and Iraqi armored vehicles blocked the street.
Church officials said the weekly afternoon Mass has been more crowded and was extended by an hour as Iraqis are less fearful about being out on the streets late in many areas of the capital.
"We are proud of this," said Hibba Nasser, a 26-year-old housewife. "We came here to this church in order to tell the terrorists that we are not afraid of them."
May God bless and protect the Iraqi Christians.
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Gee 60 minutes said that the Christians were hunted down and killed Iraq.
Aren’t those two priests who were kidnapped in Iraq still missing? Has there been any news about them?
Michael Yon’s frontline reportage questions that view, at least in the Baghdad area.
Maybe they’re a little more cosmopolitan in Baghdad, but my understanding, and I can’t recall the source, is that half of the Christian population has left since the fall of Saddam.
That sounds accurate - but I would point out that many Iraqi Christians have relatives in Europe and the US, so they had a strong motive and opportunity for emigrating with or without violence - you can make more money living in Michigan than Mosul. Hussein would not let them leave when he was in power - there were probably plenty of Christians in Iraq who had heard for years about how well their cousins were doing in the West and thought: "If there is any way I can get hold of a visa, I will leave here and never look back." The liberation of Iraq provided that opportunity.
I think this is so wonderful, people finally being able to worhsip in a true mass..with less fear. I pray for them to continue being able to worship with fear, and grow closer to God. How wonderful!!
I love that the other religious leaders shook hands with the first Iraqi priest...if they can have their country be like ours, where people of various faiths can peacefully live amongst each other, then what a great country they could be!!
Thanks for this post.
I was honored to have been among the 800 or so Houstonians to attend the consistory ceremonies in Rome when Pope Benedict XVI elevated 23 archbishops to cardinal, 23-27 Nov. Our archbishop, Daniel DiNardo was among the 23 new cardinals. Most impressive and moving ceremonies indeed!
And I got to see Cardinal Delly and mingle a bit with the small but boisterous Iraqi pilgrims. It seems that half came from Baghdad...and the rest from Detroit!!
Was that you I waved to in the crowd ;-)? I watched the live coverage at 4am on EWTN. Too bad the weather did not cooperate. Were you outside in the plaza or did you manage to obtain a seat inside the Basilica?
It seems that half came from Baghdad...and the rest from Detroit!!
Indeed! Detroit has a very large Arabic speaking community comprised of various Muslim sects + Chaldean and Maronite Catholics.
God bless this holy Patriarch who has never backed down in his resolve to maintain the Chaldean Church in Iraq. He told the pope he would give his last drop of blood for his homeland. Who can forget the martyrdom in June of Fr. Ragheed Ganni and his 3 subdeacons.
Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni
1972 - 2007
Patriarch Delly officiates at funeral for Fr. Ragheed and sub deacons
Meanwhile, some of the Chaldean Iraqis have fled to the US.
Yes, that was me! Second seat from the aisle, where I got great shots of the Pope and our new Cardinal! Our tour group had indoors passes for each traveler...an incredible thrill.
By the way, your home page is very impressive. Nice to correspond with you.
Well more than half the Christians have left. Some are returning now (after the “surge” restored order to some areas), but we shall see how things work out. There may be some pragmatic Muslims who just want to see their country do well and will take the Saddam attitude towards the Christians - tolerate them, take advantage of the fact that they are better educated, more entrepreneurial, etc. And then there are others who, once the US focus has left them, will resume their attacks. I guess it all depends on how the balance tips in the Muslim community.
God bless the Iraqi Christians, and keep them safe.