Pope Francis blesses a young boy in the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bakhdida, Iraq, on March 7, 2021. Photo credits: Vatican Media.
By Hannah Brockhaus
(CNA).- During his recent visit to Iraq, Pope Francis gave a donation of $350,000 to the Chaldean Catholic Church to support local families affected by conflict and the pandemic.
Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako told Agenzia Fides that the pope’s gift was “intended to be a sign of how real and concrete is the pope’s love for all the Iraqi people.”
Sako, who is the Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, said that $250,000 will be managed by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Baghdad. The remaining $100,000 has been divided between the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul and Syriac Catholics in Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh.
Sako said that the Church had already distributed 12,000 packages of food to people throughout the country, to “Christian and Muslim families, and those belonging to all the other faith communities present in Iraq.”
Pope Francis visited Iraq March 5-8. During the historic visit, he traveled to meet with Christians in Baghdad, Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), Erbil, and Mosul. He also met political and religious leaders, including Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Sako wrote a letter to Pope Francis thanking him for his visit and the donation. He said he would have liked to come to Rome to thank the pope in person but he was prevented by the coronavirus pandemic and complications with travel.
He said that Francis “sowed awareness of the importance of accepting and respecting diversity, behaving as different brothers, called to love each other and help each other to build situations in which every man lives with dignity, freedom and equal rights and duties.”
“We hope that this line of behavior, as indicated in your speech in Baghdad, also inspires the intentions of the great world powers,” he added.
Sako also wrote that the pope’s prayer in Baghdad, that “‘Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart,’ left a profound echo that is indelibly impressed on our memory.”
“For us, your Christian daughters and sons, your visit has fulfilled a great dream, and has given us strong support to stay, communicate with others, hope, and build trust,” Sako said.
“We are immensely grateful for your phrase ‘you are a living and strong Church,’ which encouraged us to hope and to move forward with enthusiasm.”