Card Sako cancels Christmas midnight mass in Baghdad

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The Patriarch to AsiaNews: We must think “of the safety of the faithful”, which could be “targeted”. The unanimous decision at the end of a meeting with the priests, also shared by the faithful. Groups “that do not want change” and “attack those who demonstrate in the streets”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean patriarchate has decided to cancel midnight mass “for security reasons” and to protect “the safety of the faithful”.

This is what the primate, Card Louis Raphael Sako, told AsiaNews confirming the tense situation in Iraq following the violence linked to anti-government demonstrations throughout the country.

Violence, it should be emphasized, does not come from protesters but from infiltrated groups and militias that foment clashes, targeted attacks, kidnappings and murders, in increasing numbers in the last period.

The decision, explains Card. Sako, “came at the end of a meeting with clergy and parish priests of the capital and all agreed on the cancellation. We have also spoken to several faithful and this is the shared feeling”. First and foremost, he adds, “we must safeguard people’s lives, in this context an attack would be a disaster”.

“Security – says the cardinal – is very weak in Baghdad” where there are “deaths, targeted kidnappings and attacks by protesters in the streets”, especially among the most prominent personalities, such as journalists and activists. The danger, he continues, is that “the faithful who go to church, especially at night, can become a moving target”.

Moreover at night, he continues, “they have already killed so many people, especially among the protest leaders” and it is possible that these groups behind the disorders “may also attack” a place of worship. Hence the choice to celebrate “Masses only at Christmas, by day, in full light: we want first of all to guarantee and protect the safety of people”.

The cancellation, explains a note from the patriarchate, concerns all the churches in the capital, Baghdad. The Christmas Masses will be an opportunity to “increase prayers” for a “honorable solution to the current crisis and bring life back to normal”.

Since October 1, 1 has been rocked by a vast movement of protest against government and authority. The demonstrations, forcilbly suppressed by the police, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, but the demonstrators – without ethnic, sectarian or religious distinctions – aim at the fall of the entire political class.

The tightening was strengthened at the end of November, following the double assault on the Iranian consulate in Najaf, and caused a total of over 450 deaths and 20,000 injured. To honor the memory of the victims and contribute to the care of the wounded (mostly Muslim), the cardinal decided to cancel the celebrations related to Christmas, donating the money saved to hospitals or investing it in the purchase of medicines.

“The protesters are peaceful – underlines Card Sako, who also analyzed the country’s political and social situation in his Christmas message – but there are groups that do not want change and attack those who demonstrate in the streets. Moreover, the stalemate on the appointment of the Prime Minister feeds the situation of uncertainty and confusion, just like in Lebanon “.