06/14/2019, 14.06
IRAQ - VATICAN
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Iraqi President: the Pope's visit a "historic" event. High expectation among the Christians of Nineveh

Don Paolo speaks of an "important" presence for the Christians of the plain, who still live "a difficult situation". There is "expectation and trepidation" among the faithful, "the official date" is expected to celebrate. Barham Salih received Patriarch Sako to begin work in preparation for the visit.

Karamles (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' visit to Iraq is "important" for Christians, especially for the community of Mosul and the plain of Nineveh which "still is in a difficult situation" in a "scorched earth that needs to be rebuilt,” says Don Paolo Thabit Mekko.

The Chaldean priest pastor for the Karamles community in the north, told AsiaNews, commenting on the announcement of the Pope's visit in 2020. A visit, as Iraqi President Barham Salih pointed out yesterday, receiving the Chaldean primate which has "historic" value.

"As soon as the news was released - stresses Don Paolo - a feeling of expectation and trepidation spread among the Christians of Nineveh. They hope that the date will be made official and that it will be as soon as possible."

The presence of the pontiff, adds the Chaldean priest, is "an essential push for those who still live a difficult situation today" such as the communities of Mosul and the plain. “It  critical moment - he continues - because we must rebuild amid many challenges and many uncertainties; our future is still obscure, even if there is a desire to start afresh”.

Faced with difficulties and uncertainties, says Don Paolo, the "wonderful surprise" of the announcement remains, but "the real celebration" will take place when "the exact date of the visit is communicated: we all need the Pope".

He adds: "It is a sign of attention to the Iraqi Christian community, which risks being forgotten both in its own country and by the international community. We need help, collaboration to face and overcome the many challenges: identity protection, emigration, preservation of an ancient heritage and a rooting in this land ".

Yesterday, meanwhile, Iraqi President Barham Salih received the Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako in his office in Baghdad, in the context of a visit described as warm and cordial. Commenting on the Pope's intention to visit the country in 2020, the head of state spoke of "historic" importance and recalled the numerous interventions in the past by the Pope in favor of "peace and stability" in the country and "security for all the citizens".

Salih then emphasized the value of Christians and their role "in the construction" of Iraq; they are an "original" component of the country and have "contributed to its development and civilization". In response, the Chaldean primate expressed "appreciation" for the president's words and stressed the fundamental role of guarantor "of national unity".

The cardinal and the head of state then discussed the steps to be taken in anticipation of the pontiff's visit, with respect to which there is still no official date.

In this regard, some indiscretions on the program of Pope Francis in Iraq are beginning to filter through: in addition to the capital Baghdad, the pontiff could go to Ur of the Chaldeans, to remember the common descent from Abraham of Christians and Muslims, then head north to meet the refugees from Mosul and Nineveh who are still refugees in Erbil and other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. In fact, the situation of the plain and the objective of guaranteeing stability and services to the citizens were the other two themes at the center of the meeting between Card Sako and Barham Salih.

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