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08/01/2005 IRAQ

In Mosul 81 children meet the challenge of their First Communion

Mosul (AsiaNews) – For two months, 81 children braved check points risking their lives as bombs exploded and clashes took place all around them on a daily basis. They made it though—they successfully received their First Communion at the Holy Spirit Church, not far from the Church of St Paul which, with four other Iraqi churches, was targeted on August 1 last year in a terrorist attack.

Their parish priest, Fr Ragheed Ganni, was proud of his little parishioners. "Given the exceptional circumstances, they had the courage to do things even better that they would have, if circumstances were normal," he said.

He told AsiaNews how the children—aged 11 to 14—started preparing for the "great day" two months ago when school ended.

"Sometimes they found themselves caught in the midst of US troops; at other times, road blocks prevented them from reaching the church. Still, they accepted the challenge in spite of their fear and won," he said.

When two mosques—one Sunni, one Shiite— were hit by attacks on July 12 and 16 respectively, they prayed in church for the victims. "Praying is a believer's best weapon".

What kept the kids going, overcoming discouragement, was keeping their eye on the prize, i.e. "closely knowing Jesus, being with him, no matter what, and at any price. Only Jesus is enough".

Friday mass was celebrated by Mgr Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. During the function, the prelate urged the children taking the First Communion to "always remembers that there is no life without the Eucharist, no life without Jesus. We must always tell Jesus time and time again what he told the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: "Stay with us" (Lk: 24, 29).

But for one of the children, First Communion was also the first day without his mother, who passed away the day before. With her loss he was alone since his father died two years ago.

"The child's relatives did not know what to do since local custom and traditions dictate a long period of mourning," Father Ragheed said.

What is more, "many Iraqi Christians have lost the spiritual meaning of such an event and have only retained its social aspects. For years, we have tried to make them understand that some customs can be put aside in order to uphold the values of the Gospel," he explained. "Thus, everyone took part in the ceremony, including the little orphan's three cousins who also received their First Communion."
His mother's last wish was for her son to receive the Eucharist. "The Body of Christ that these children received for the first time is also what we need in our time of death," Father Ragheed added.






See also

01/08/2005 IRAQ
The Church in Iraq does not give in to terrorism
A year ago terrorist attacks were carried out against five churches—St Paul's Church in Mosul was one of them. Today the Chaldean Bishop celebrated a mass to commemorate the event. "The Church is much better today [. . .] we have learnt to put into practice values like forgiveness".

18/04/2008 IRAQ
Love for our “Muslim brothers and for Iraq” in Mgr Rahho’s Will
The Will of the Chaldean archbishop slain by Islamic terrorists last month is published. It includes no material bequests but a strong message upon which to build peace and love among religious communities. His notion of death is one of openness, of “giving oneself to a new and infinite God”.

30/05/2005 IRAQ – YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
A week to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist in Mosul diocese
Prayers and moments of reflections are held in every parish. "People feel the need for a God who is close," says Chaldean bishop.

11/04/2005 IRAQ - VATICAN
Pope, example of humility to Iraqi Christians
A crowded memorial mass was held in Mosul for the Pope; in Baghdad seminarians compose a hymn to honour the Pontiff, 'pastor, apostle and father".

04/04/2007 IRAQ
Mosul: despite bombs and gunfire near churches the faithful have not forsaken Holy Week
Attacks and threats against the often targeted Chaldean parish of the Holy Spirit continue. “We offer our suffering as a token of love for Jesus,” parishioners say. Holy Week rites take place in an underground hall to avoid explosions. Greetings are sent to the Pope, “who always holds the Iraqi people in his heart.”


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