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Iraq's Church looks forward to Papal visit to Lebanon

2012-08-09 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The count down is on, with just weeks to go before Benedict XVI's apostolic journey to Lebanon, scheduled for September 14 to 16th. A visit which has as its primary purpose the publication and delivery of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East, the concluding document for the 2010 Middle East Synod of Bishops.

The Pope's visit is therefore eagerly awaited not only in Lebanon but in all the Christian communities of the region. Alexander Gisotti asked Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad how the Church in Iraq is looking forward to the papal trip.

Bishop Warduni says “despite all the difficulties that exist and all the worrying circumstances that there are in the Middle East, including Iraq, the Church awaits with great hope the Holy Father's visit to Lebanon.”

It is “the visit of a father who loves his children, who feel his concern for them, anywhere and under any circumstances,” continues Warduni. “Even in Iraq, we expect this Apostolic Exhortation with love and great hope. There are still many difficulties, especially regarding security. We hope, therefore, that this visit will bring much consolation, courage and so much support.”

Q - The Pope will meet not only the Christians and the bishops in Lebanon – he will also have a meeting with Muslim communities. This is very important to strengthen dialogue ...

“Of course! Dialogue between Muslims and Christians was spoken of even at the Synod for the Middle East. All of us live in one place: here we grow up together, live together, and especially we (as) witnesses of the Gospel - we always try to be close to our brothers, trying to make people understand that religion must bring people together, to help understand that the Spirit of God is present everywhere. If we do not respect each other, if we fail to help each other and reconcile each to the other, it will be very difficult to move forward in these circumstances - with the war - because the love for God and love of neighbor are not understood.”

Q - The Pope's trip to Lebanon will also be an encouragement to the many Iraqi Christians forced to flee. This proximity of the Pope is felt by the Christian community in Iraq?

“As the Pope asks of us, we must love our land, we must grip on to our faith, our church and to our land. This is the hour of great and powerful hope, so that everyone may return to their homes: there, they will truly find happiness. We hope that everyone can live in peace and safety!”