Despite insecurity, Catholics in Iraq pray for Pope John Paul II
By Eleni E. Dimmler
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite continued insecurity and violence, Catholics
in Iraq attended services for Pope John Paul II April 3 and will do so again
April 10, clergymen told the Fides news service.
"The people are filling the churches, even in the face of a thousand dangers
and difficulties," Msgr. Pyoss Qasha, pastor of St. Joseph Syrian Catholic
Church in Baghdad, said in an interview with Fides, the Vatican's missionary
"We all remember how much the Holy Father did for Iraq and for us Iraqi
Christians," Father Qasha said. "He wanted to visit our country and make a
pilgrimage to the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, to the places of Abraham, the
father of us all."
Ur is traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Abraham; the government
of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would not permit the pope to visit
as part of his Holy Year 2000 pilgrimage to important places in the history
Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, planned to join
St. Joseph's parishioners April 10 for a special memorial Mass.
Pope John Paul's April 8 funeral Mass and interment at the Vatican were
scheduled to be broadcast live on Iraqi television by the satellite channel
Al Dyar, Fides said.
The bells of St. Joseph's tolled for the pope at the service April 3 as Catholics held a candlelit procession.
"The pope loved and defended Iraq with powerful symbolic acts and vibrant
speeches," Msgr. Qasha said. "He had the courage to say no to war."
Pope John Paul strongly opposed U.S. armed intervention in Iraq.