ASIA/IRAQ - Initiatives to relaunch pilgrimages to Ur of the Chaldeans, after the visit of Pope Francis

Wednesday, 5 May 2021 middle east   oriental churches   pilgrimages   bible   pope francis  

Vatican Media

Ur (Agenzia Fides) - The arrival of a dozen representatives of different Christian Churches from around the world is expected in the coming days in Ur of the Chaldeans, the Iraqi city from where, according to tradition, the journey of Patriarch Abraham, Father of all believers, began. On Saturday, May 8, the members of the delegation will pray together at Abraham's home, in a unique pilgrimage that also aims to express the hope of seeing the flow of pilgrimages in that area resume and grow, when the country has emerged from the pandemic crisis. The reason for the visit of the Christian leaders to Ur is the official installation of the Syrian Catholic bishop Firas Mundher Drdr as Patriarchal Exarch of Basra and the Gulf. The inauguration ceremony will take place in Basra on Friday, May 7, and will be attended by the Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Ignace Youssif III Younan. The next day, Saturday, May 8, the Patriarch and the other clergy present at the inauguration of Exarch Firas Drdr will visit Ur. As the website points out, the visit of the ecclesiastical delegation is part of the attempt -also supported by local and national authorities - to promote the area of Ur of the Chaldeans as a pilgrimage destination, after this crucial place in the history of salvation hosted one of the key moments of Pope Francis' visit to Iraq (5-8 March 2021).
The desire for increased religious and archaeological tourism in Ur and throughout the Iraqi governorate of Dhi Qar has been at the center of conversations between ecclesiastical representatives and local and national civil authorities on several occasions, along with the call to dedicate more attention and resources to the tourism sector. The Inspectorate for Antiquities of Dhi Qar has already explored the possibility of involving NGOs and international organizations as potential partners in projects aimed at developing tourist infrastructures around the ancient city of Ur. The location in Ur of the "House of Abraham represents a potential, undeniable incentive to encourage religious tourism in the area. The ankawa website. Org also reports in this regard the statements of the spokesman for Iraqi foreign minister Fuad Mohammed Hussein, received on Monday 3 May in the Vatican by Pope Francis. The statements reported by the Iraqi website emphasize the importance of caring for and enhancing the archaeological areas in Iraq, also involving foreign companies and businesses in the construction and management of the works necessary to guarantee the relaunch of these areas also as tourist attractions. The largest pilgrimage made by Iraqi Christians in recent years was precisely the one that in April 2016 saw about 200 Chaldeans from Baghdad travel to Ur (see Fides, 27/4/2016).
Chaldean Bishop Basilio Yaldo and seven priests, Christians belonging to different communities and parishes in Baghdad lived this pilgrimage as a "strong moment" in the spirit of the Year of Mercy. On that occasion, a Eucharistic Liturgy was celebrated at the archaeological site, not far from the Sumerian Ziggurat, under a tent set up in memory of Abraham. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 5/5/2021)