Iraqi Christians Heavy on Pope’s Heart, Aide Comments on Benedict XVI’s Remarks

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2007 ( Benedict XVI has shown his deep concern for Iraqi Christians in his numerous pronouncements on their plight, notes a Vatican spokesman.

In an editorial on the most recent broadcast of the show “Octava Dies,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, commented on recent remarks of the Pope regarding Iraq.

The Pope said June 21: “The whole Church accompanies with affection and admiration all her sons and daughters and supports them in this hour of authentic martyrdom for the name of Christ.”

Father Lombardi said that “with these intense and firm words, Benedict XVI responded to the cry for help that continues to arise from the Christian communities in the Middle East devastated by war, particularly in Iraq, where the assassination and kidnapping of priests and their helpers have become in the last weeks a terrible manifestation of the situation of suffering that has gone on for some time now.”

The spokesman continued: “The Pope spoke at the meeting of the organization for aid to Eastern Churches, but there was also a meeting that same day with the patriarch of the Assyrian Church, Mar Dinkha IV.

“The Pope spoke about the Christians, including non-Catholics, who are suffering ‘tragically, materially, and spiritually’ because ‘families and Christian communities feel more and more the pressure of uncertainty, of aggression, and a sense of abandonment.'”

“The bishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, echoed this in a letter in which he confirmed that the ‘the life of Christians in Iraq is becoming always more difficult, because the present government has not been able to guarantee security and the enforcement of law,'” Father Lombardi added.

The priest said that Bishop Sako explained “that Christians, who do not have their own militias to defend themselves, ‘are totally vulnerable.'”

The Jesuit continued: “We should not be surprised that many Christians are trying to migrate to other countries. The historical presence of ancient Christian communities thus is in danger of disappearing.

“All Christians, not only Catholics, must unite themselves to the Pope’s appeals.

“The Pope has said: ‘I knock at the heart of those who have specific responsibilities, to ask that they adhere to the grave duty of guaranteeing peace for all, without distinction, to free them from the mortal sickness of religious, cultural, historical and geographic discrimination.'”

Father Lombardi added, “We cannot forget the martyrdom of these our brothers, defenseless in the face of violence.”