Thursday, 10 July 2003

Baghdad (Fides Service) – After years of exclusion and absence from public life Chaldeans in Iraq want to take part in the political activity of their country. Following the news that Iraq will soon have a Leadership Council to act as an executive body running governmental duties, the general secretary of the Chaldean National Congress, Mr Ghassan Hanna has demanded the inclusion of Chaldean representatives in the Council. “The exclusion of Chaldeans in the executive body would render the Council unrepresentative” said Mr Hanna. The Chaldean National Congress has mobilised Chaldeans world wide to this effect.
About a month ago the Chaldean National Congress opened a branch in Baghdad aiming to become a major player in the building of democratic institutions in view of civil and moral growth of the new Iraq “which cannot come about without the contribution of the Chaldean community” the Congress members say, anxious to prevent a Shiite theocracy. The president of the Baghdad Branch of the Chaldean National Congress is secretary and spokesman is Mr Foud Bodagh, and Professor Issam Jarjis.
In Iraq Islam is the official religion because 90% of the people are Muslim, but the Constitution recognise freedom of conscience. In recent decades under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein there were very few Christians among the 250 members of the national assembly. Now Christians in Iraq are anxious to shoulder responsibility for the political life of the country, despite the fact that most people in Iraq, a Muslim Arab country, think that only Muslims should be in power. With the present situation of change in Iraq, Christians are concerned about extremists Shiite currents which want an Islamic theocracy.
Christians in Iraq are 3% of the population, about 800,000. About 500-600 belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church and the rest are Orthodox Christians. Most of the Chaldean Catholics (350,000) live in Baghdad, which is the See of the Patriarchate. After the recent death of His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Bidawid of Babylon of the Chaldeans (7 July in Beirut) the community is guided by two auxiliaries Bishop Emmanuel-Karim Delly and Bishop Andraos Abouna. The Holy Synod of the Chaldean Church will soon meet to elect a new Patriarch.
In Iraq, besides providing pastoral care for its members, the Chaldean Church is also involved in education and assistance to poor families, Christians and Muslims. The liturgical language of the Chaldean Catholic Church is Aramaic, the language of Jesus, but in Iraq where people speak Arabic, Holy Mass is celebrated in both languages. There are Chaldean communities in Europe, America and Oceania. In 2000 in Rome, the Procura or Delegation of the Chaldean Church to the Holy See was instituted. PA (Fides Service 10/7/2003 EM lines 46 Words: 554).