The Catholic patriarchs of the East in Baghdad… the future is promising

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The Catholic patriarchs of the East in Baghdad… the future is promising

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

There are events taking place that give a glimmer of hope and a promising future with values of optimism and solidarity ahead. Other events reflect frustration, madness, injustice and bleakness. Among these events is the conference of the Catholic patriarchs of the East which convened for the first time in Baghdad. The patriarchs of the East have been the guests of their brother Cardinal Louis Sako who seemed extremely joyful for hosting his brother bishops for the first time in his country which was devastated by tragedies.

The conference of the patriarchs of the East is not an extraordinary act. It is a periodic one that takes place every year in a country where a patriarch prevails, namely in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan (by virtue of its connection with Jerusalem). The patriarchs represent seven Catholic churches in the East, namely Latin, Roman Catholic, Maronite, Syriac, Armenian, Copt and Chaldean. But this conference is distinguished because it was held in Iraq, the country that suffered from political wars, at a time when the Christians in particular suffered from despicable religious persecution by Daesh (ISIS) gangs which adversely affected the Christian population in Mosul and in its environs.

What draws the attention in this conference is that it included several marginal meetings such as the meeting with the new Iraqi president who had arrived from the Vatican after having an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. The popular level of the meetings included celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Karrada on the 8th anniversary of the violent explosions that ripped through the church, as prayers were dedicated to the souls of the martyrs as well as for the unity of Iraq and the safety of its inhabitants. The next day was followed by prayers attended by large masses of people at the Church of St. Joseph in Karrada with the participation of Iraqi youths who wore popular folk clothes to show their attachment to the land of their forefathers despite the "series" of wars as well as the political and security instability that had shaken their country. How wonderful it was to hear the joyful hymns and the kind words voiced by the youths who prayed for peace and tranquility in the East and in the world. The choir’s resounding words that echoed said, “Our Lord does not forget us, He is always with us and He is our guide in the way of life.

An impressive scene was when two youths presented their life experience. The first one was forced to flee Mosul at the hands of ISIS while the second one was subjected to several pressures and tribulations in Baghdad. However, they remained in country. Several youths addressed important and frank questions to the patriarchs. They answered the questions of their "children", responded to their worries and hopes with regards to their worries and hopes about the future, relations between religions, the unity of the Church, and any political role they should play. The patriarchs were frank in their answers as they said: "It is not true that everything is not in our hands. We are part of our societies and what happens to them is reflected on us as a whole. We have nothing to do with political solutions. But, we hope that the Almighty God would inspire politicians to do everything possible to improve issues relevant to security and economy. The people's living conditions cannot be improved without attaining security and vice versa because security improves with the improvement of the living conditions of people.”

Furthermore, while touring the streets of Iraq, Christmas decorations were visible on the rooftops on many buildings. We thanked God for the return of harmony and prayed to the Lord of Peace to protect the peoples of our region so that the East would restore its role as a centre of dialogue and harmony amid atmospheres of the sublime religious and political pluralism. The future of Iraq is promising, God willing!

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