February 22, 2000
volume 11, no. 37
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Chaldean Vicar Hails It as "A Sign of Grace; We Are Exultant"

    VATICAN CITY, FEB 20 (ZENIT).- The news that the Holy Father will make a "spiritual" pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans this Wednesday was received by Iraq's Catholic community with great rejoicing, according to Msgr. Youssif Habbi, the Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar and Professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He explained that Catholics in Iraq are very enthusiastic and will join the Pontiff during this celebration, which will take place in the Vatican, following in Abraham's "footsteps."

    Msgr. Habbi made these statements after presiding at a Mass for the closing of the "Ba 'utha Ninawa" feast,- the Rogation of Nineveh, attended by thousands of Iraqi faithful who observed three days of fasting and prayer, which the Eastern Church established to commemorate a famine that occurred in that area in the 6th century, which has become the most popular and solemn festivity of Iraqi Catholics.

    The feast ended with the above-mentioned papal surprise. "It could not have happened at a better time. The Lord does everything well, and this is a further sign of grace and blessing that will undoubtedly bear fruit. The Holy Father gives constant proof of a totally paternal love for the people and Church of Iraq," Msgr. Habbi said.

    The Vicar gave the faithful the news during the Mass. "I read the joy in everyone's eyes the joy. They almost began to shout in Church. In spite of the sad situation and the consequences of the embargo, fortunately, we still have room for joy. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was right when she said that if the gift of ourselves doesn't make us suffer, it means that we are not living love as it must be lived. It has been a happy coincidence that the news came when the feast was being held to celebrate the Lord's love for his people, which our people organize with magnificent songs composed by St. Ephraim and other Fathers of the Church."

    "The Chaldean Church has chosen this year, precisely on the feast of Rogation, to call the faithful to the conversion, renewal and prayer to which the Jubilee invites us, and many of my parishioners -- 20,000 in total -- broke the fast they kept over these days at the end of today's celebration. You can imagine, then, the effect of my announcement," Msgr. Habbi explained.

    The Vicar said that "Patriarch Bidawid will undoubtedly celebrate a solemn Mass and this afternoon (February 16) and there will be a discussion on the possibility of extending the celebrations to all the dioceses of the country, given that in the near future, on March 18, the Jubilee of the Chaldeans will be held, which is included in the Holy Year's official calendar."

    Msgr. Habbi indicated that this "spiritual" pilgrimage does not rule out a "physical" pilgrimage some time later in the year. "I wouldn't go so far. I remind everyone with whom I speak that the year 2000 is only beginning. We must hope against all hope, as St. Paul says. Moreover, one of the Jubilee's objectives is, precisely, hope," the Bishop emphasized.

    There are those in Rome who feel the need to launch a Christian campaign against the embargo that lacerates the Iraqi people. "This could be a duty of Christians before the end of the Jubilee. Tell me, of what use is this embargo, in whose name has it continued for the past ten years and, above all, against whom? We will never tire of repeating that it is a foolish and inhuman scandal, and that its damaging consequences only punish the poor. It is an act against justice and against the cause of human peace throughout the world." ZE00022003


February 22, 2000
volume 11, no. 37

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