· Vatican City ·

Bishop Yaldo on the Pope’s visit

Among a people
who ask for hope

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26 February 2021

The bright and excited voice of Bishop Yaldo reaches the other side of the telephone line that seeps joy and hope: “The people of Iraq are wholeheartedly awaiting the visit of the Pope”, he says. The Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad and coordinator for the Church in Iraq of the papal visit scheduled for 5-8 March, is well aware that he is before an event without precedent. It is the first time that a successor of Peter will visit this part of Western Asia. “For us this represents a historical event; we have been waiting for decades”. Now at last, the moment has arrived.

The motto of the trip is “You are all brothers” and the logo displays a dove, the symbol of peace. In some way do they sum up what the people desire?

Iraq still suffers greatly as a result of the wars and terrorist attacks: we want to achieve this peace. And we are certain that the Pope’s visit will bring hope to all Iraqis, not only to Christians. As the motto reads, we want to live as brothers and sisters, with no more war, with no more terrorism.

The Pope’s visit will begin in the capital, Baghdad. What will be the other important stops?

In Baghdad, the Pope will meet the Iraqi authorities and celebrate Holy Mass in the Chaldean cathedral. He will also visit the Syrian rite Catholic cathedral in which 48 people died, including two priests, following a bombing in 2010. Another very important stop will be the one in Ur of Chaldeans, from where Abraham departed for his mission: a meeting will take place here involving all the major religions in Iraq which will be followed by a joint moment of prayer. In Mosul, the city from which most of the country’s Christians hail, the Pope will pray for the victims of the violence that took place during the Isis occupation: More than 120,000 Christians fled from this city in a single night, abandoning their homes to avoid being killed.

The Pope will also visit Qaraqosh. Will this also be a fundamental moment of the journey?

Certainly. It is in fact from this small Christian village in the Nineveh Plains that aid for displaced Christians arrives, so that they may return to their lands. The Pope will travel there to bring the solidarity of the Church. But we should not forget another stop: the one in Erbil in Kurdistan Region. The Holy Mass that the Pontiff will celebrate in the Franso Hariri Stadium has profound significance. The Pope will arrive here for all the people of Iraq, without any distinctions.

In your opinion, what will be the fruits of this journey?

The first fruit will be hope. And then fraternity, As the phrase chosen for the motto of the visit reads, we all have to feel like brothers and sisters, live as brothers and sisters. Peace must be our objective. And the Pope will come to help us truly become a united people.

Federico Piana