LONDON (CNS) – An English bishop asked Catholics in England and Wales to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq by praying for the Iraqi Christian community, which is “undergoing its own Calvary.”
“In the midst of continuing conflict and instability we should all
reflect on the lessons that need to be learned and ask how we can
contribute to creating a better future for Iraq,” said Bishop Crispian
Hollis of Portsmouth, England, chairman of the Department of
International Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Above all, we need to remember the people of Iraq as they struggle to
rebuild their country,” he said on March 18. “In particular, we ask you
to hold in your prayers the Christian community.”
He said the plight of Iraqi Christians had been “brought home with
terrible force” by the February 29 abduction and subsequent killing of
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq.
Meanwhile, it has transpired that shortly before his death Archbishop
Rahho had asked for prayers for Iraqi Chaldean Catholics and said he
would be the last person to leave Mosul.
“We are asking for your prayers to remove this cloud from our country and our Church,” said Archbishop Rahho in a January 18 letter to the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The letter, which the association sent to CNS on March 17, referred to a series of church bombings in Mosul in early January.
“We want to stay in our beloved land, despite the situation and the sufferings, especially after these last bombings,” said Archbishop Rahho.
The Archbishop asked for support from the association and said that “as a result of immigration, violence, kidnappings, bombings and unemployment” the church’s revenue had declined by more than 25 per cent.
However, Archbishop Rahho said the church provided “nonstop pastoral services for Chaldean families forced from Baghdad and other insecure areas” who had settled in villages in northern Iraq.
“We do not want to close our churches or leave Mosul,” Archbishop Rahho said.
He added, “Personally, I will be the last person to leave.”
Archbishop Rahho, 65, was kidnapped on February 29 in an attack that left his driver and two bodyguards dead. The archbishop’s body was recovered on March 13 after the kidnappers told Catholic leaders in Iraq where he had been buried. His funeral was on March 14.
Conservative estimates put the Iraqi death toll at about 89,000 people, while 4.3 million have been displaced, including more than 600,000 Iraqi Christians.