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 CNS Story:

SYNOD-IRAQ Oct-14-2008 (350 words) xxxi

Cardinal says Iraqi church leaders risk lives in 'tragic' situation

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Iraq's leading churchman said the situation in parts of his country remained "disastrous and tragic," and he said church leaders were risking their lives daily to proclaim the Gospel.

Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch, made his comments Oct. 14 at the Synod of Bishops on the Bible. His speech received a huge round of applause from the more than 200 bishops present.

Cardinal Delly said life in Iraq is like a Way of the Cross for many people.

"Peace and security are lacking, just as the basic elements for daily life are lacking," he said.

"There continue to be shortages of electricity, water and gasoline, telephone communication is increasingly difficult, roads are blocked, the schools are closed or endangered, hospitals run on a reduced staff and people fear for their safety," he said.

He said everyone fears kidnapping and intimidation, including church workers. He noted that 16 priests and two bishops in Iraq have been abducted and released after payment of ransom.

Some church personnel, he said, including Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, three priests and six young people, have been killed and today "belong to the ranks of the new martyrs who are praying for us in heaven."

"To live the word of God signifies for us witnessing it even at the cost of one's own life, as has happened and continues to happen with the sacrifice of bishops, priests and faithful," he said.

He asked the synod for prayers and said the church in Iraq would keep doing all it could to promote peace and security and defend the rights of Christians.

Cardinal Delly spoke after fresh reports of violence against Iraqi Christians in Mosul. Two Christians were killed in mid-October, one in his home and one in his place of business; at least 10 other Christians have been killed in the area since late September.

Police have been deployed on the streets of Mosul to stem the violence by criminal gangs against Christian targets. Hundreds of Christian families were said to have fled Mosul in the first two weeks of October.

END


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