In Communion with the Christians of Iraq

(h2Onews 16/11/2010) They prayed for the Church and for Christians in Iraq. Thousands of people gathered in Bethlehem, in the church of St. Catherine, to remember the innocent victims of the Oct. 31st massacre by Al-Qaeda militants. The attack in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad was one of the worst atrocities against Christians since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy in the Syriac rite, Mgr. Grégoire Pierre Melki, Exarch of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Syrians, remembered the 58 victims, including women, children and three priests. Concelebrants included two Iraqi Franciscan friars. Also present were the Pope’s representative to the Holy Land, Archbishop Antonio Franco, bishops of the Holy Land and their representatives, about forty priests, and Orthodox, Syrian, Greek and Armenian bishops and priests.

Sitting in the front row were two ministers from the Palestinian National Authority, in addition to the mayor of the city. Many Palestinians are a mix of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Egyptians, and Jordanians. Those present were Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant … or rather all were, at that moment, during the intensity of their recollection, Christians of Iraq, or perhaps just Christians of the Middle East, ranging between faith, hope, uncertainty about the future of their presence in their respective lands.

“This Mass gave me the impression that Christians, wherever they are, are in fact united. Especially when it comes to events such as this in Baghdad,” said Msgr. Melki.” We feel united – everyone has followed with sadness the news from Baghdad and wanted to say to each other that we are with the Christians of Iraq. ”

At the end of the celebration, after reading the message of President Abu Mazen, the crowd gathered in the square of the town hall, opposite the Basilica of the Nativity, holding candles and placards condemning all forms of terrorism.

Bishop Grégoire Pierre Melki, Exarch of the Patriarchate of Antioch of the Syrians: “We prayed with the martyrs, we prayed for the injured, their churches, for their families. But in general we prayed for all Christians of Iraq. And not just for Christians, but we also prayed for Iraq.”

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