Courageous Iraqi Christians Celebrate an Ordination and First Communions

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aday_nz.jpgBAGHDAD, Iraq, JULY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- In spite of persecution, ordinations and first Holy Communions bring signs of hope for the Christian community.

On July 7, in the church of Mar Addai, Father Ephram Gallyana, 31, was ordained a Chaldean priest at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul, AsiaNews reported.

The new priest is from the Diocese of Mosul, but for security reasons, was ordained in Karamles, Iraq, the same settlement where the funeral of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and the three murdered subdeacons was held on June 4.

Father Ephram placed a cross of yellow roses on the tomb of Father Ragheed with the inscription, “from your brother, Ephram Gallyana.”

The new priest pledged to “continue the work of Father Ragheed.”

On Sunday, 59 children received their first Holy Communion in Baghdad.

Dressed like novice monks and sisters, the children went to the Syrian-Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation.

“I prayed that Jesus returns my father safe,” said 11-year-old Matti. His father was kidnapped nine months ago, and has not been heard from since.

Another kidnapping last Friday added to the climate of fear for Christians in Iraq. Four lay people, among them a father and a son, disappeared in Kirkuk. Original reports said that a priest was among the victims, but it was later confirmed that all the missing persons are lay.

“Do not succumb to the threats of the evil-doers,” was the appeal made by the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of the capital, Athanase Matti Matoka.

“Many churches in Baghdad have canceled their annual first communion ceremonies to avoid possible attacks but we decided to go ahead with our program,” he explained.

The archbishop said, “The children have been meeting here for more than a month despite the danger.”