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Iraqi Patriarch: Situation Perhaps ‘Darkest and Most Difficult Period’

08 Jul 2014 – By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — The patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad called the current situation in his country “perhaps the darkest and most difficult period in [the church’s] recent history.”

In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service on 7 July, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael also reiterated his appeal for the safe release of two nuns and three orphans believed kidnapped in the militant-held area of northern Iraq on 28 June.

He told CNS that there has been no word about the group’s whereabouts or who may have abducted them, despite assurances of help from many quarters.

Patriarch Louis Raphael also said the city of Mosul “is almost empty of Christians.”

“There are only about 200 [Christian] individuals that may be left there,” he said. “The churches are closed. There was no Mass on Sunday. There are no priests.”

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants reportedly have occupied both Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox cathedrals, removing the crosses at the front of the buildings and replacing them with the Islamic state’s black flag.

The patriarch compared the current situation for the church in his country to the biblical tale of when Jesus slept in the boat while the storm raged and his disciples were terrified, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark.

“Despite everything, we do not despair,” he said. We are invited and pressed to awaken Christ, to take advantage of our faith and continue in a calm sea.”

He urged the faithful to pray for the safe return of the group and for the future fate of all Christians in Iraq.

“I do believe, of course, that prayers can make miracles,” he said.

The kidnapped Chaldean Daughters of Mary, Sister Miskintah and Sister Utoor, and three orphans went missing in Mosul, the first city to fall in June to militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who have overrun vast swathes of territory across five Iraqi provinces north and west of the capital, Baghdad.

“Until now, we don’t know who is behind the kidnapping and where they are,” Patriarch Louis Raphael told CNS.

“We have contacted many people, including Muslim imams, sheiks, and private individuals. They have promised us that they are trying to find out something, but nothing has happened. They don’t know. We’ve also asked the Kurds to look for them,” he said, his voice full of concern and strain.

Kurdish fighters have promised to defend Christians and other minorities in northern Iraq against the recent onslaught of Islamist extremists.

The Chaldean leader said it was not clear whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was involved in the abductions.

“We don’t have exact details,” he said. “The situation is very confusing. Nobody knows.”

The group went missing around the time the militants shelled Christian villages outside of Mosul, including Qaraqosh, forcing more than 40,000 Christians to flee in terror, many with just the clothes on their backs. The majority of Qaraqosh’s 40,000 inhabitants are Syriac Catholics.





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