Iraq

Rites: The Catholic Christians of Iraq are in majority of Chaldean rite; other rites include the Syriac, Armenian, Latin, Melchite and Maronite rites.

Saints: Aphrahat the Sage was an eminent Christian writer from the patristic era, whose wisdom went down the centuries.

Churches dedicated to Mary in Iraq

Mosul: The very ancient church of "Mary the Immaculate." This title evokes the holiness of Mary. It is in the walls of this church (now lying in ruins) that the Chaldean liturgy was elaborated. (1) 

Ancient Tahira Church (The Immaculate): Near Bash Tapia is considered to be one of the most ancient churches in Mosul. No evidence helps to determine its exact area. It could be either the remnants of the church of the Upper Monastery or the ruined Mar Zena Church. Al-Tahira Church dates back to the 7th century, and it lies 3 m below street level. Reconstructed last in 1743.

Alqosh (near Mosul): The monastery of Our Lady of the Seeds. (1)

This title of the Virgin comes from the Chaldean liturgy, which celebrates Our Lady of Seeds on January 15th. The liturgy of the feast compares Mary to a "blessed field where grows the wheat of blessings that satisfy the hungry world." In Mary "sprouted the tree of life whose fruit gave life to men." (3)

Kirkuk: Church dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, consecrated on October 9, 1965. This church is a meeting place for people of good will, Christians and non-Christians, in the spirit of Vatican II. (1)

Baghdad: Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral.

On October 31, 2010, an al-Qaida commando stormed the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the heart of Baghdad in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian community in Iraq. Forty-four faithful, mostly women and children, two priests and seven members of the Iraqi security forces, were killed. (2) This tragedy invites us to entrust the fate of Iraqi Christians to Mary, Queen of Martyrs.

The tragedy of persecuted Christians of Iraq:

After the attack on the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad, many Christians in Iraq chose to leave their country, where life under radical Islamism is constantly under threat. On Wednesday [November 10, 2010], al-Qaeda in Iraq said Christians were "legitimate targets". (2)

[In 2010], victim of repeated attacks, the Christian community has been reduced from 800,000 to 500,000 faithful since the American-led invasion in 2003. In Baghdad, this community went from 450,000 to 150,000. There are only 14 Chaldean parishes (Eastern Rite Catholics) left in the capital, down from 28 seven years ago. (2)

The solemn consecration to the Virgin Mary of the small Christian community in Iraq was made on Friday, March 21, 2003, by all the patriarchs and bishops of the various Christian Churches of the country, in Baghdad’s Chaldean Cathedral of Saint Joseph, in front of the statue of the Pilgrim Virgin "Queen of Peace."

________________________________________

(1) Attilio Galli, Madre della Chiesa dei Cinque Continenti, Ed Segno, Udine, 1997, p. 483-488

(2) France2.fr

(3) Bishop Georges Gharib, conference given at the Marianum Pontifical Institute, 2004.

________________________________________

F. Breynaert