04/01/2020, 13.34
IRAQ – ITALY
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Fr Samir: Like Jesus in the desert, in quarantine to heal from evil (II)

by Samir Youssef*

The Iraqi priest draws a parallel between the limits imposed by the pandemic and Christ’s exile before Easter. He holds Masses and prayers for Italy. At a time of suffering, faith is an element of support. The outbreak is damaging the economy, shutting down factories. The authorities must provide support. The second part of his testimony follows.

 

Erbil (AsiaNews) – Being under quarantine is “bit like Jesus’s exile in the desert to heal and purify from all evil, from every virus that affects the heart and mind, our spirit,” writes Fr Samir Youssef, Chaldean priest in northern Iraq, in the second part of his testimony to AsiaNews amid the coronavirus outbreak. For some time, “we have been celebrating Mass for Italy,” he explains. “After the Mass I kneel before the crucifix, and pray in Arabic and Italian”. At a time of great trial and suffering, the rediscovery of faith becomes an element of strength and support. “I truly believe that only with God’s help through the cross of Jesus will we be able to get out of this situation.” The second and last part of Fr Samir’s testimony follows. For the first part, click here.

Being in quarantine is a bit like Jesus’s exile in the desert to heal and purify from all evil, from every virus that affects the heart and mind, our spirit. We must not be afraid of those viruses that only kill the body; we must instead fear what ends up killing the spirit: like the persecutions in the world, the religious and social, economic persecutions, crime, drugs . . . how many people die from these viruses.

Ever since the epidemic began in Italy, then in other countries, we have continued to pray on our knees at the feet of the crucified Jesus and knocked on his merciful heart asking for the grace to save the world. We all need his mercy. This is why I celebrate Mass every day, in Latin and Italian. I like it and it's nice to do it on my own. On Sunday we celebrate Masses and post them on the Internet, with only the choir, but now the government has stopped that too. In the evening I pray the Rosary with my mom and my aunt; after I go back to the parish church and pray the Rosary of mercy for Italy and the entire world.

Like in the rest of world, the [Iraqi] economy is in difficulty, everything has stopped. I think the damage will last for years. Here the factories are closed and to restart they will need support from the authorities. Iraq has been hard hit because most of our economy is based on oil and pries are currently very low. The fear is that the virus will stay, becoming seasonal. The world after coronavirus will no longer be as before; many [new] practices will remain. We are so used to washing our hands and disinfecting them that a priest friend of mine put disinfectant in the tea instead of sugar!

I truly believe that only with God’s help through the cross of Jesus will we be able to get out of this situation. Without him we cannot do anything. For this reason, the Pope visited the miraculous cross in the church of San Marcello a week ago, asking for the grace to be able to save Italy and the world from this epidemic. They later carried it to St Peter's Square to be held up as a symbol of the universal Church, with arms outstretched to the world.

For many, the suspension of Mass is a tough test. All collective rites – Sunday services, funerals, weddings, baptisms, confirmations and communions – have been suspended. However, I believe that praying can be done anywhere and at this moment the Church is everywhere, in homes and hospitals. Whatever we do for the sick and the weak is like a mystically celebrated Mass. Our patriarch has started a prayer for Italy and celebrates Mass live online, allowing everyone to attend from their homes.

Even in my own diocese the bishop celebrates alone and the service is carried online. As for our parish, I celebrate in the evening in the presence of three people and we too stream it on social media, so that the whole parish can ideally unite. People listen to the word of God and we keep in touch, united in a mystical body.

For some time now we have been celebrating Mass for Italy. After the Mass I kneel before the crucifix, and pray in Arabic and Italian the litany I brought with me from the church of San Marcello, which has a miraculous cross. The Italian Church, with all the people, stood by us in difficult times of war and persecution, under the occupation of the Islamic State group. Today we all pray for Italy; today we are all Italians.

*priest in the Diocese of Zaku and Amadiyah

(Second and last part)

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