Iraqi Catholics attend Mass at site of recent slaughter

 

IRAQI CHALDEAN Catholics yesterday celebrated evening Mass in the battered church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, where 52 parishioners were slain last Sunday by al-Qaeda gunmen.

In a morning service in London, Iraqi Orthodox archbishop Athanasios Dawood issued an appeal to Iraqi Christians – a community that traces its history to the first century after Christ – to flee their country, and called upon Britain to grant them asylum. Al-Qaeda has vowed their “extermination”, and pledged to carry out attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the church, France offered refuge to 150 Iraqi Christians, including some of the wounded.

Chaldean cardinal Emmanuel III Delli and other Christian prelates in Iraq itself have pressed the faithful to stay on, while clerics outside the country have urged them to emigrate. About half the 800,000 Christians who were living in Iraq when the US occupied the country in 2003 have left, many for neighbouring Syria and Jordan, or fled to the relatively safe haven of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Iraqi Christians are today expected to gather at government buildings in major US cities to protest against the failure of the US and of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government to protect Christians, who enjoyed security under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad it was announced that rival blocs had agreed to a powersharing accord exactly eight months after parliamentary elections.

Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said the deal, brokered by Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani, provided for a second term for incumbent prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, while his rival Ayad Allawi would name the speaker of the assembly.

However, the deal was not confirmed by Mr Allawi’s spokesman, who held that some outstanding issues remain unresolved.

Iraqi politicians have been deadlocked since the election result was proclaimed because neither Mr Allawi, whose Iraqiya party won a majority, nor Mr Maliki, whose State of Law bloc came second, have been able to form a majority coalition government.

In a last-ditch bid to reach an accord, parliament delayed the session set for today until Thursday, when lawmakers are slated to elect a speaker and two deputy speakers. But this meeting may be postponed again if agreement on the premiership is not achieved.

On Saturday, Iraqi activists announced they had filed a lawsuit with the Baghdad district court demanding that legislators each return $22,000 (€15,690) a month in back pay and security expenses – a total of $40 million – because they have not met since June when they took the oath of office.

Last month the supreme court ordered parliament to reconvene, name a speaker and resume work.