Page 4, 7th November 2003

7th November 2003
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Page 4, 7th November 2003 — Archbishop of Baghdad says Church is in crisis
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Archbishop of Baghdad says Church is in crisis

Tracy Jo Smith reports on the fears of Christians in post-war Iraq THE LATIN-RITE Archbishop of Baghdad has said that Christians in Iraq feel that the current turmoil has made them insecure about practising their faith and he fears whether the religion will survive.

On a visit to Lebanon, his homeland, Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad said: "People are afraid of becoming a victim of violence.

I think many (Iraqi Christians) are dreaming of leaving. Some have left, but it's difficult now, because they need passports, visas and money. I think Christians of the Middle East have to be resigned to their mission in the Middle East. This country (hail) needs Christianity. Otherwise, it will be a desert."

Although many Christians in the Middle East feel that their situations might improve if they moved to a Western country he added: "I think that Arab Christians have to be sure that God waits for them in the Middle East and not in other countries. The Middle East and

other countries need Christ

more today than ever before. I hope that all believers in Christ in the world will really be a testimony of Christ. We are all a community of Christians as seekers of peace and builders of peace, and it's important to continue."

The effects of war are taking their toll on the most vulnerable in Iraq. The work of relief agencies has been hindered through heightened security after the Red Cross bombing last week.

The archbishop said: "Many young children are Oil the roadsides asking for money and selling small things". He compared the situation to Brazil and other impoverished countries. where scores of children beg on the streets. The irony is that Iraq is a country rich in oil he said.

According to the archbishop because the Church as an institution did not suffer during the war many people in Iraq are counting on the Church to help them find food and work.

As for the security problems in Iraq, the archbishop said: "I think the Allied forces are not police forces, and they have had to be like police.

"In Iraq, we still need police, tribunals and all the institutions of the state. It's very dangerous for a society

not to have these institutions."

Archbishop Sleiman said the United Nations could play an important role, "but the United Nations without an agreement of nations will be very inefficient.

"It is important that the United States and other countries, especially European countries, agree on a programme for Iraq. And the United Nations is best suited to apply this programme".

He added: "I think the solution is to control the society again and to protect the freedom of people, all people, and surely to change the structures and create a situation where women and men can collaborate together in building the society."

The archbishop expressed sympathy with the American people over the growing number of casualties.

He said he had also seen American soldiers buying gifts for Iraqi children.

John Paul II called the Synod of the Bishops of the Chaldean Church to meet early December in the Vatican to elect thc new patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldean..

The Pope's decision came in virtue of Canon 72 of the

Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, explained Vatican press office director Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The 22 bishops of the synod met in August to appoint the successor of Patriarch Raphael Bidawid, who died on July 7. The process followed the custom of the Eastern patriarchal churches.

Canon 72 provides for the election by a two-thirds vote in the first ballot or by an absolute majority after a certain number of votes. If the election does not take place in the first I.5 days from the opening of the synod, Paragraph 2 of the canon establishes that the case goes to the Roman Pontiff.

Christians in Iraq number 800,000, about three per cent of the population. Of these, Chaldean Catholics constitute over 70 percent.

The Baghdad community has about 350,000 faithful.

The official language of the Chaldean liturgy is Aramaic. As the faithful normally speak Arabic, the celebration of the liturgy is

bilingual. There are

Chaldean communities in

America, Europe and Oceania.




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