Catholic Christian faith in Iraq

This map shows the religious composition of Iraq's population. The green and lighter pink, and the yellow and lighter blue shaded areas represent Shi'Ite and Sunni Muslims. The small red spots in the north represent Christians: 4% of Iraq's population. (Click on the map for a larger version.)

Sotto Voce over at Clerical Whispers turns our attention to the beginning of a new academic year at a seminary in Iraq.
A special liturgy marked the start of the new academic year at Babel Catholic College of Theology in Ankawa, the only Catholic college for theology in Iraq. Run by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Babel College is affiliated with the Pontifical Urban University in Rome.

The Eucharistic Celebration, presided by the rector Mgr Jacques Isaac, in the presence of Padre Rayan Atto, parish priest at Mar Qardagh, in Erbil, was held at Mar Eliya church, in Ankawa, a town in northern Iraq where the college was moved from Baghdad because of insecurity in the southern Dora of the capital.

"We need optimism and courage to carry on didactic activities," Mgr Isaac said."I am optimistic for the role Babel College has had and will continue to have to form Iraqi clergy. Our task as an ecclesiastical institution is to form Christ's witnesses. This is why I encourage all the bishops to take advantage of Babel College, its teachers and the cultural contribution it offers ".

The guests visited the building site of a new wing. The three floor building will host the Aula Magna, four lecture rooms and the library."We have 6,000 volumes, a good number, but nothing compared to the number still in the College library in Baghdad. However we cannot get them because the college, the seminary and the convent Dora cannot be reached. The area is extremely dangerous and all three buildings are occupied by American troops which have made it their headquarters in the city district," said Mgr. Isaac. Courses will also resume at the Institute for Religious Sciences, interrupted last year because of difficulties connected with the transferal of the college.

The Institute offers a three year course for Catechists and any lay people who wish to deepen their knowledge of the faith.

"I was able to announce that the Institute will resume courses in Baghdad too at Mar Ghorghis church", said Mgr. Isaac, "a sign that despite the difficulties, the Church continues to walk with faith and courage".

(Read the full story here.)
I can't begin to imagine the "faith and courage" it takes to be a Catholic in Iraq, to consider becoming a catechist or priest in Iraq, to run a seminary in Iraq. Such devotion and fidelity puts my own life and ministry in perspective. Perhaps yours, too?

Here in the U.S., it's not faith and courage we lack. Too often, we just can't find the time...

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