ASIA/IRAQ - Parliament recognizes Christmas as a public holiday throughout the country

Thursday, 17 December 2020 middle east   oriental churches   christmas   politics   pope francis

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - From this year, Christmas becomes a public holiday throughout Iraqi territory. This is what the members of the Iraqi Parliament decided, expressing unanimously their agreement to the proposal made in recent months and made public during a meeting between the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, and Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. The measure takes on particular importance in view of the apostolic visit that Pope Francis has planned to make in Iraq from March 5 to 8, 2021.
The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, immediately after hearing the news of this unanimous decision of Parliament, released a message in which he thanked Iraqi President Barham Salih, the President of Parliament Muhammad al Halbousi and all the parliamentarians "for the vow cast for the good of their fellow Christians", invoking God's blessing and reward upon them.
A bill to have Christmas Day officially recognized as a public holiday throughout Iraq was the concrete request that the Babylonian Patriarch of the Chaldeans Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, presented to Iraqi President Barham Salih, who received the Patriarch at the Head of State's residence on Saturday 17 October (see Fides, 19/10/2020). During the meeting Iraqi President Barham Salih (a Kurdish engineer who graduated in Great Britain, where he was expatriated at the time of Saddam Hussein's regime) recognized and exalted the role of Christian communities in the reconstruction of the country, reaffirming its commitment to favor in every way the return of displaced Christians to their territories of origin, starting with Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, which they had to abandon during the years of jihadist occupation. The Iraqi government had already declared Christmas a "once-only" holiday in 2008, but in the following years this provision in question had not been officially renewed at the national level, having been applied in recent years in the province of Kirkuk alone.
Last year (see Fides, 4/12/2019), Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako himself had given instructions to celebrate Christmas in a sober way, without public celebrations, as a sign of closeness to the families of the hundreds of deaths and injuries recorded during the protests and street clashes that had shaken the country in the previous months, which also occurred after the fall of the government led by Adel Abdel Mahdi. For this reason, the traditional receptions that see political and religious authorities at the Patriarchate headquarters to exchange Christmas greetings with the Patriarch and his collaborators were cancelled. Only moments of prayer and intercession will take place for the souls of the victims and to invoke the return of Peace in the whole country. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 17/12/2020)