VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his closeness to Iraqi Catholics shaken by two new terrorist attacks which destroyed an Armenian-Catholic church and the Chaldean bishop’s palace in Mosul.
“I express my spiritual closeness to the faithful, distressed by the attack, and I implore the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that the Iraqi people may at last know times of reconciliation and peace,” the Pope said today after praying the Angelus on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
On Tuesday, attackers entered the Armenian Catholic church in the Wihda neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, according to AsiaNews. They forced out a security guard and two other people who were there and then set off two bombs, according to eyewitnesses.
Around 4:30 p.m., a group of four or five armed men stormed the Chaldean bishop’s palace on the right bank of the Tigris River.
Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, 62, was away on pastoral duties. The only person in the building was Father Raghid Aziz Kara. He told AsiaNews that after the attackers ordered him to leave the premises, they proceeded to lay and then detonate explosive devices. He heard three explosions and saw the building engulfed in flames.
The nearby Church of the Purification, which Muslims also venerate because of its famous statue of Our Lady, was untouched. Police were investigating.
Archbishop Fernando Filoni, apostolic nuncio in Baghdad, told AsiaNews that the attacks against the bishop’s resident and the Armenian Catholic church are “grave and cowardly acts against defenseless Christian symbols and institutions.”
The nuncio said that the Armenian church “was supposed to be inaugurated on Christmas Day.” The attack against it shows “how little respect terrorists have for people and holy places,” he said.
He said that the bishop’s palace in Mosul had been receiving threats for some time. “Today they became a reality,” he noted.
In reference to U.S. action in Fallujah, Archbishop Filoni said that terrorists promised “they would destroy a church for every mosque that was attacked. But all these acts stem from an exasperated violence that especially strikes those who are defenseless.”