Iraqis Await an Easter Under Curfew

BAGHDAD, Iraq, MARCH 23, 2005 ( For the second year running, Christians in Iraq will celebrate Easter under curfew.

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«Services for Holy Week and Easter will be in the mornings only because of the curfew,» a lay Catholic in Baghdad told the Fides news agency.

«This means we cannot hold the Easter Vigil Mass at night and Easter will be very quiet,» the source said. «Many families are too afraid to go to church. For us the situation is calm; there is tension among Muslim groups but it does not affect Christians. However violence affects everyone and is the cause of fear.»

The source added: «In northern Iraq it was a tradition for Catholics to take part in Holy Week services at the various ancient Chaldean and Syrian monasteries. But today most people are too afraid to go anywhere, or let their children go to church.»

In his Easter message, Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul encourages Iraqis to draw from the turmoil around them the real meaning of the Resurrection.

«Assassinations, terrorism and fear must not have the last word in Iraq,» the 62-year-old prelate writes. «Just as Christ overcame the tomb and death, what must triumph at the end is Life and Love.»

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