Pope Offers Encouragement to Iraqi Prelates

Bishops Present Him With Mementos of Slain Ministers

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging Chaldean prelates to continue giving «courageous testimony» in the midst of difficulties, especially in Iraq.

The Pope said this in an extensive discourse Saturday to Chaldean bishops in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

«I salute their courage and perseverance faced to the tests and the threats of which they are victims,» he said of the faithful who face daily violence.

The Holy Father said he received with particular emotion the liturgical garments that belonged to Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul and Father Ragheed Ganni, who were killed in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

«The testimony that you are giving of the Gospel is an eloquent sign of the vivaciousness of your faith and the strength of your hope,» he added. And he encouraged the Iraqis to persevere «with courage and hope,» despite persecution. «The prayers and the help of your brothers in the faith and of many people of good will all over the world accompany you, so that the face of the love of God can continue shining on the Iraqi people who are enduring so much suffering.

«In the eyes of the believer, these, united to Christ, become elements of union and hope. As well, the blood of the martyrs of this land is an eloquent intercession before God.»

The Pontiff urged Chaldean Christians to give witness of the unity among themselves, as well as persevere in maintaining a Christian presence in the region. He also invited them to practice Christian charity with the needy, regardless of race or religion.

«I strongly encourage you to support the faithful so they overcome the present difficulties and affirm their presence, appealing to the responsible authorities to recognize their human and civil rights, exhorting them also to love the land of their ancestors, to which they remain deeply linked,» he urged the prelates.


The Pope also emphasized the importance of a testimony of Christian unity in a county where the Church is divided in various rites and distinct customs.

«Especially in Iraq, the Chaldean Church, which is the [Christian] majority, has a particular responsibility to promote the communion and unity of the Mystical Body of Christ,» he said. «In each eparchy, the diverse pastoral, administrative and economic structures foreseen by law are for you precious aids to effectively fulfill communion in the heart of the communities and favor collaboration.»

The Holy Father also stressed the importance of the role of the patriarch in relation with other Christian confessions and the Muslim majority.

«In maintaining cordial relationships with the members of the other communities, the Chaldean Church is called to play an essential role of moderation faced to the construction of a new society where each one can live in concord and mutual respect,» he contended.

The Bishop of Rome affirmed that Iraqi Christians are «citizens with full rights […] without distinction of religion.»

«Today,» he continued, «the Chaldean Church, which has an important place among the different components of your countries, should continue this mission of service to human and spiritual development.»

Regarding Chaldean Christians living in other lands, he urged that they «tighten the bonds with their Church of origin.»

«It is indispensable,» the Pope said, «for the faithful to protect their cultural and religious identity and that younger [generations] discover and appreciate the richness of the patrimony of their patriarchal Church.»

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