DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     November 16, 1998     vol. 9, no. 224

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          BAGHDAD (CWNews.com/FIDES) - "How can you agree to this genocide, have you no conscience? No reason can warrant a similar attack on the life of whole nation." That appeal cry, addressed to US President Bill Clinton, was the dramatic highlight of an interview granted to the Roman news agency Fides by the Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, the Chaldean Catholic leader of Baghdad. The Patriarch's emotional appeal was in response to new threats of an American military strike against Iraq.

          Most of Iraq's 20 million people are Muslims, but there are also about 1 million Christians living in the country. Of these, 80 percent are Catholics. The majority of Iraq's Catholics are members of the Chaldean Church, which uses Aramaic-- the language of Jesus-- in the liturgy. A smaller number of Iraqi Catholics follow the Latin Rite.

          "We were horrified to hear there will be another war, another bombing," the Patriarch told Fides. He told the Roman agency, which is affiliated with the Vatican Congregation for Evangelization, that the people of Iraq have been suffering under and international embargo, and hoping that it would soon be lifted. "The embargo has crippled the population," he said; "most people live in miserable, unhealthy conditions from which there is no escape."

          The Patriarch also reminded Fides of Pope John Paul II's desire to visit Iraq. Sources at the Vatican have indicated that a papal trip to the land of Abraham's birthplace is being considered for November 1999.

          Patriarch Raphael II Bidawid is the spiritual leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern-rite Catholic community of some 600,000 believers-- most of them living in Iraq and Iran. From his residence in Baghdad, the Patriarch issued the emotional plea for peace, in response to American threats of a military strike against Iraq.

          The following is a direct translation of an interview offered by the Patriarch to the Vatican news agency Fides. It is reproduced here with permission.

    Fides: Your Beatitude, what has been your reaction to this new threat of war?

    Patriarch: We were horrified to hear there will be another war, another bombing attack, although limited to striking certain "strategic points" in Iraq. These points could turn out to be in fact some of the country's essential infrastructures, as it happened in 1990. We firmly protest with all our strength against this threat.

          Among the people there is great fear and disappointment: we were expecting a lifting, even partial, of the embargo which has punished the nation for eight long years.

    Fides: What would you say to President Clinton?

    Patriarch: I would ask him how he can do this. How can you agree to this genocide? Have you no conscience? No reason can warrant a similar attack on the life of whole nation."

    Fides: What have been the consequences of the embargo?

    Patriarch: The embargo has crippled the population; most people live in miserable, unhealthy conditions from which there is no escape. It is estimated that the lack of basic food and essential medicines has caused the death of over 1 million Iraqi children. Because of the embargo some 20,000 children continue to die every month, either at home or in the hospitals. This is a tragedy, if not a genocide, inadmissible in these "civilized" times of ours. If this is the New World Order of which so much is said, then we reject it.

    Fides: The Holy Father would like to visit Iraq. Is this possible?

    Patriarch: When I visited Rome last October, the Pope re-confirmed to me his desire-- not to say his determination-- to undertake a pilgrimage following the steps of Father Abraham, beginning at Ur of the Chaldeans. The Holy See's Secretariat of State is examining the possibility of a visit in November 1999. For our part, we are working to convince the government to extend an official invitation to the Pope to visit Iraq.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Nov 16, 1998       volume 9, no. 224


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