VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is expressing his closeness to the victims of the Oct. 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Baghdad.

The Pope sent one of his closest collaborators to visit some of the wounded being treated in Rome.
Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who is in charge of general affairs for the Secretariat of State (and attends to business almost daily with the Pontiff), made a visit Thursday to the wounded Iraqis who are presently being treated in the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic.
Archbishop Filoni is familiar with the situation in Iraq, as he was the apostolic nuncio there from 2001 to 2006, serving under both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The prelate told Vatican Radio, "It was a meeting requested by the Holy Father, as through my person he wished to express his closeness, presence, affection and, of course, to follow personally these cases and each of these persons present here in Rome."
The archbishop explained that the meeting was "very warm and affectionate."


He reported: "I was able to greet the majority of the persons personally. I heard their stories, their difficulties and their understandable strong emotions.

"I witnessed much gratitude for the fact that the Holy Father was concerned about them, with the hope that the Pope himself will be able to meet them personally soon."
After recalling the more than 50 casualties and the plight of their families, the archbishop stressed the Holy See's commitment of outreach "with the governments, with the charitable organizations that are already mobilizing and with the Episcopal conferences."
Italy's episcopal conference convoked a Day of Prayer for Iraqi Christians on Sunday, and the Holy See is organizing a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Thursday for the victims of the attack.
Archbishop Filoni affirmed: "Prayer is an effective reality. Sometimes, in face of so much impotence, we know that spiritual power, God's power, is a formidable support."

He noted that the Iraqis themselves have asked: "In our difficult situation we want our Christian brothers to pray for us, that they be with us with prayer and affection."
The prelate concluded, "I can say that when I was in Baghdad, at the height of the war, I never felt so close, so strong, so palpable the prayer raised for peace throughout the Church."