IRAQ ACN delegation takes gift from Pope to Christians in Erbil


From 1st to 4 April this year a delegation from ACN Italy will visit the city of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Pope Francis wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to entrust some sacred vestments, together with a personal financial donation, to the Bishop of Carpi, Monsignor Francesco Cavina, who will be part of the delegation led by Alessandro Monteduro, the director of ACN Italy, together with Bishop Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia-San Remo and Don Massimo Fabbri, representing the archdiocese of Bologna.

“Just as soon as the Holy Father learned of this visit of mine with ACN, he telephoned me expressing his desire to send a gift to our Iraqi brethren in the faith”, Bishop Cavina relates.

The Pope has also given a letter to Bishop Cavina in which he praises the visit organised by ACN as an “initiative that expresses friendship, ecclesial communion and close fellowship with so many of our brothers and sisters, whose situation of affliction and tribulation grieves me deeply and calls out to us to defend the inalienable right of every person to freely profess his own faith.”

The Pope calls for us “not to forget the drama of persecution” and notes how “the patient and courageous witness of faith on the part of so many disciples of Christ represents a call for the whole Church to rediscover the fertile wellsprings of the Paschal Mystery, from which we can draw energy, strength and light for a new humanism”.

“Mercy”, the Holy Father continues, “calls on us to bend over these brothers and sisters of ours, to dry their tears, heal their physical and moral wounds, and console their grief-stricken and damaged hearts. It is not a matter of a mere dutiful act of charity but of helping our very own hearts, since all Christians, in virtue of the same baptism, are “one” in Christ.”

In Kurdistan the delegation will meet with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar MattiWarda of Erbil, and with him will visit the refugee centres in the mainly Christian suburb of Ankawa. Here they will also visit the Father Werenfried Village, named after the founder of ACN, Father Werenfried van Straaten, which is a settlement of 150 prefabricated homes donated by ACN, and now home to 175 Christian families. The visit will also take in the schools – also in prefabricated buildings donated by ACN – in which some 7000 Iraqi children are today able to continue their studies. In the following days the delegation will also meet with Syrian Catholic Bishop PetrosMouche of Mosul, who has now been forced to live in Erbil together with his Catholic faithful, ever since the city was overrun by the fighters of IS.

“Right from the very start ACN has supported the Christian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan”, recalls Alessandro Monteduro, the director of ACN Italy. “We have donated food, homes and schools, so that they could live in dignity. To say nothing of the support for their pastoral work, so that the Christians there can continue to fully live their faith. It is a faith which they have courageously refused to renounce, even at the cost of their own lives.”

 From June 2014 to the present day ACN has given over 15.1 million Euros to the Iraqi Christians. This support has also continued throughout this Lent, during which the Italian office of the pontifical foundation ACN has sponsored six separate projects in aid of the 250,000 Christians still remaining in Iraq. It was a campaign also supported with generous donations by the dioceses of Carpi and Ventimiglia-San Remo.

Marta Petrosillo