US Bishops Visit Iraq, Urge Plan for Peaceful Future

Visit Site of Last October’s Bombing That Claimed 58 Lives

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 12, 2011 ( Two leaders of the U.S. bishops have visited their brother prelates in Iraq, saying one of the most moving moments of the four-day tour was a stop at the Syrian Catholic church where 58 people were killed a year ago.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, and Bishop George Murry, of Youngstown, Ohio, were in Baghdad from Oct. 2 to 5. 

They made the trip as representatives of the USCCB and visited the four Christian communities in Baghdad, the Chaldean, Latin, Armenian and Syrian Catholics.

«The Christians in Baghdad have suffered greatly; their faith has been tested,» said Bishop Kicanas, according to a statement from the U.S. bishops’ conference. «One of the most moving moments in the visit was praying with Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, archbishop emeritus of Baghdad, in the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance where so many were killed in the bombings and shootings that took place there on Oct. 31 of last year.»

The bishops prayed at the tomb of the two priests killed in the attack and viewed the damage done to the church by four suicide bombers.


Bishop Murry also noted how one Chaldean priest told «the chilling story of his kidnapping and being held for ransom by two different groups. Many people had similar stories to tell.»

The bishops toured Caritas Iraq programs in Baghdad that serve Christians and Muslims. These included a well-baby program, programs for people with special needs, and peace building and reconciliation programs.

«In every instance we were impressed by the great good being done by the Caritas staff and volunteers,» said Bishop Murry. 

But, said Bishop Kicanas, «instability and the fear of violence permeate the city. People pray and long for peace. The sanctions, war, and occupation have taken a heavy toll on the people. (…) Christians will remain in Iraq only if there are opportunities to work, if greater stability and peace can occur.»

Bishop Murry and Bishop Kicanas will inform the U.S. bishops, the CRS Board, and the U.S. government on what they saw and experienced.

«As the United States military moves to the planned withdrawal from the city in the next months, it is critical that a plan be in place for a peaceful transition,» Bishop Murry said, «and not one marred by more violence and the killing of innocent people.»

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