Rome, 22 Nov. Â (AKI) – The head of the Chaldean Christian church in Iraq and worldwide, Emmanuel Deli III, will on Saturday become the first Iraqi cardinal. He is among 23 senior churchmen who will be made cardinals on that date
Iraq’s vice-president Adil Abd-al-Mahdi will be attending the ceremony, Iraqi TV station Al-Iraqiyah reported on Thursday.
The rank of cardinal is the second most senior in the Catholic hierachy after that of pontiff.
Around 70 percent of Iraqi Christians belong to the Chaldean community. An Eastern-rite autonomous church, it has its own liturgy and leadership but recognises the authority of the pope.
There are an estimated 600-800,000 Christians in Iraq – around 3 percent of the population. Many Chaldeans and members of other religious minorities in Iraq have fled the country since the 2003, fearing sectarian violence directed at them by the Muslim majority.
According to Iraqâ€™s last census in 1987 there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq at that time. But the Ministry of Migration and Displacement has said that nearly half of that population has fled Iraq since 2003.
In 2000 the Vatican set up a Rome-based body representing the Chaldean Church, headed by Mons. Phillipe Najim.