DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     December 13, 1999     vol. 10, no. 236

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Chaldean Patriarch Says Decision Was Taken for Safety Reasons

        BAGHDAD, DEC 10 (ZENIT-FIDES).- John Paul II has been forced to postpone his trip to Iraq again. Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, the highest Catholic authority in the country, said the decision was made for security reasons.

        In statements to "Fides," the religious leader explained that the pontifical trip has not been cancelled but simply postponed. "We are very saddened by this new delay in the visit, but here in Iraq the situation changes every day. In spite of this, the Pope's trip is only postponed: the Jubilee Year is long and we are only at the beginning of the millennium."

        This morning the Vatican Press Office published a statement by its director, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, explaining that "Iraqi authorities have communicated to the Secretariat of State that the abnormal conditions in which the country is living because of the embargo and the no-fly zone, as well as the situation the region is experiencing, do not make it possible to adequately organize the Holy Father's visit to Ur of the Chaledeans, in Iraq."

        The Chaldean Patriarch explained that this decision has nothing to do with the criticisms of the Pope by some Iraqi intellectuals, who accused him of scarcely mentioning the Muslims in a letter written to the Christians of the country. According to His Beatitude Raphael I, these criticisms have not had the slightest effect: "Only the West gives importance to these things; here no one has been concerned about this."

        The real reason for the new delay in the papal trip, the Patriarch said, is the fact that Iraq cannot guarantee the safety of the trip: "The Americans and British control all the air space. A few months ago they bombed an area close to Ur. What would happen if they start bombing this same areas during the Pope's visit? Or even if they don't, but some cruel person does? Without a doubt the international community would accuse Iraq. Everyone would be ready to blame our country."

        "Nor is it a question of relations between the Vatican and Iraq, either," the Catholic religious leader continued explaining. "I can say the Iraqi government and the Vatican have an optimum relation. Iraq would be honored to welcome the Pope. For all of us, Christians and Muslims, the Pope is a saintly person. We do not want to profane the visit of a holy man with an attack by a deranged person or some foreign power."

        "The Pope intensely desires this trip," Bidawid concluded. "We Iraqis all anxiously wait for him, but we shall have to hope for better times. The trip was scheduled for January, at the beginning of the Jubilee Year, but the Pope could come at the middle or end of the year." ZE99121008

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

December 13, 1999       volume 10, no. 236


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