Iraq: Midnight Mass is cancelled

1222-iraq_archbishop-sako.jpgBy Eva-Maria Kolmann and John Newton
IRAQ’s Christians will spend Christmas in “great fear” according one of the country’s leading bishops.
Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, told Aid to the Church in Need that Christians are scared of fresh attacks.
He said that traditional vigil services such as Midnight Mass will not be possible because of the high security risk – all services over the festive period will be conducted in the daytime – and Christians will not display Christmas decorations outside their homes.
Speaking to the Catholic news agency Asianews he said: “Midnight Christmas Mass has been cancelled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians and the attack against Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral on 31 October, which killed 57 people.”
According to the Archbishop the security situation in the country has become more unstable following the withdrawal of US troops earlier this month.
But Archbishop Sake said that the situation has been dramatically affected by the struggle for political power between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
The Archbishop’s words follow a number of incidents in the northern province of Kurdistan, which was previously regarded as a safe haven by many Christians who fled there from the south.
In Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil, 29-year-old Christian, Sermat Patros, was kidnapped the on afternoon of 12th December.
The week before at least 30 shops owned by Christians were torched in Zakho in the Kurdish province of Dohuk near the Turkish border between the 2nd and 5th December.
Most of the shops targeted sold alcohol and it is reported that the attacks by youths followed a condemnation of liqour stores at Friday prayers.
As well as these incidents a Christian husband and wife – Adnan Elia Jakmakji and Raghad al Tawil – were shot dead in their car on the 13th December in the northern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. According to reports they were deliberately targeted and murdered.
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need is calling on Christians throughout the world to pray for Iraqi Christians throughout the Christmas season as a sign of solidarity.

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.

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For more information, contact John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.