Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"May Their Sacrifice Be the Seed of Peace and Rebirth"

Thirty-six hours after Sunday's bloody siege on Baghdad's Syriac Catholic cathedral, early today saw a mass funeral for seven of its nearly 60 dead.

Held in a Chaldean Catholic parish due to the damage taken by the site of the attack, the emotional liturgy -- led, in the absence of the Syriac archbishop, by the Chaldean patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly -- saw Muslims and Christians join in an appeal for an end to violence, and the reading of a condolence telegram from Pope Benedict:
"Deeply moved by the violent death of so many faithful and their priests Tha’ir Saad and Boutros Wasim, I wish, during the sacred funeral rite, to share spiritually in this occasion and pray that these our brothers and sisters are welcomed by the mercy of Christ into the Father's House”.

“For years this country has been suffering untold hardships and even Christians have become the subject of brutal attacks that, in total disregard of life – an inviolable gift from God - seek to undermine confidence and peace.”

“I renew my call that the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters may be the seed of peace and true rebirth, and that those who care about reconciliation, solidarity and fraternal coexistence, find the strength and motivation to do good.”
Calling for an increased protection of the country's embattled Christian community, Delly told the mourners that "We are gathered here in this sacred house to say farewell to our brothers who were just the day before yesterday exclaiming love and peace... Now fate has decided that they will leave us."

According to wire reports, among the congregation was the head of one of Iraq's Shiite Muslim political parties, tears repeatedly said to be running down his face.

In a move that surprised many observers, at the last intake in 2007 Benedict XVI created Delly as the first-ever cardinal in the long history of Catholicism in Iraq. In an additional rarity, the Pope took the unusual step of explaining his decision in his homily on Consistory Day itself:

"[H]ow can we fail... to look with apprehension and affection at the beloved Christian communities in Iraq?

"These brothers and sisters of ours in the faith are experiencing in their own flesh the tragic consequences of a prolonged conflict and at this time are living in an especially fragile and delicate political situation. By calling the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church to enter the College of Cardinals, I intended to give a material expression to my spiritual closeness to and affection for those peoples. Let us reaffirm together, dear and venerable Brothers, the entire Church's solidarity with the Christians of that beloved Land and invite the faithful to invoke from the Merciful God the advent of the longed-for reconciliation and peace for all the peoples concerned."

Three months later, the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped. The 68 year-old prelate was found murdered two weeks later -- to which news, from his study window on Palm Sunday, Benedict memorably implored "Enough with the massacres; enough with the violence; enough with hatred in Iraq!"

That said, amid a security situation said to be "teetering," a fresh round of bombings across Baghdad has already claimed another 80 lives there tonight. According to early reports, the latest round of violence began with the explosion of ten car bombs scattered around the city.

PHOTOS: Reuters(1); AP(2)