ASIA/IRAQ - “A Holy Week of suffering for Iraqi Christians” reports Father Nizar Semaan from Mosul. Palm Sunday processions and Easter Night Vigil Mass cancelled for security reasons

Monday, 5 April 2004

Baghdad (Fides Service)- “Holy Week will be a time of suffering in Iraq” Father Nizar Semaan, in Mosul, told Fides. Mosul has been the scene of recent between the coalition forces and Shiite activists. “Yesterday for security reasons all Palm Sunday processions were cancelled. These Christian Easter liturgical processions are popular in Iraq and they are followed by many non Christian Iraqis” Father Nizar said. “This year Iraqi Christians are preparing to live Holy Week in an atmosphere of growing insecurity. We have had to engage armed guards outside Churches for fear of attacks which thank God have not happened so far. For security reasons all Easter Vigil Masses have been cancelled. Christians will attended morning Mass on Easter Sunday ”.
“This is a difficult time for our country” dice p. Nizar. “We were hoping this Easter to celebrate with the Resurrection of the Lord, also the resurrection of our nation but we are still in the middle of our passion ”.
Shiite supporters of a Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr have occupied the government offices in Bassora, southern Iraq. Yesterday 4 April in clashes in various parts of the country at least 40, coalition troops and rioters, were killed.
“ One of the causes of the violence is power struggle in the Shiite community” Father Nizar told Fides. “The date when power will be given to the temporary Iraqi government June 30 is approaching. The various Shiite contenders must first be accepted as unquestioned leaders in their community before they can candidate themselves as leaders of the country.”
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the main Iraqi Shiite leader, has so far taken a moderate attitude on contrast with that of Moqtada Sadr who has several dozen armed men and many supporters in Badr City, the large Shiite district of Baghdad. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/4/2004, righe 30 parole 360)