New Chaldean Patriarch Calls Iraqis to Unity

BAGHDAD, Iraq, DEC. 22, 2003 ( Emmanuel III Delly took possession of his office as Chaldean patriarch by calling all Iraqis to unity, at a time when Christians are wary of rising signs of Muslim fundamentalism.

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The patriarch made his appeal Sunday in St. Joseph Cathedral, which was crowded with hundreds of faithful. Sunni and Shiite representatives and dignitaries also attended the ceremony.

Iraqi police was deployed to guarantee security.

«We all make up only one family, the family of Iraqis,» the new patriarch said, addressing citizens of all confessions.

At the start of the ceremony, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Wardouni addressed the new patriarch, saying: «We pray to God so that he will help you to guide his boat, in these difficult times, to the shores of peace.»

The synod of the 22 bishops of the Chaldean Church chose the new patriarch on Dec. 3 at the Vatican. The Chaldean Church is in communion with Rome.

Christians in Iraq number about 800,000, some 3% of the population. Among them, Chaldean Catholics represent 70%. The Baghdad Chaldean community has some 350,000 faithful.

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