Archive of April 6, 2010

Media is rebelling against truth, says Peruvian cardinal

Lima, Peru, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - During Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne expressed solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI and noted that the media attacks against the Holy Father and the Church are “a rebellion” against truth and love.

“Personally, I object.  And for this reason, in these especially difficult times, courage and the love of God must stand.” 

The cardinal prayed that God might be with the Pontiff to “strengthen him” in the face of “a rebellion against the truth, against kindness, against love ... I pray that Jesus and the Virgin Mary will protect the Catholic Church and especially the Holy Father, so that this campaign to smear him will not prevail.”

Likewise, during his program, “Dialogue of Faith,” the cardinal expressed joy at seeing so many receive the Sacrament of Confession and visit the Blessed Sacrament during Holy Week.

He said that the "theme in our churches" last week was this: "God died for you and for me.  It is something that changed history, and in that sea of people - the thousands or millions who went to confession or received Communion or visited the Blessed Sacrament - we saw an amazing expression of faith that can only lead us to say to the Lord, ‘Thank you, because you have not forgotten us!'" 

The cardinal added that the Holy Week celebrations have been a chance to “reboot our hope and joy” and bring renewal to all.

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Middle East bishops emphasize Pope’s transparency in handling abuse cases

Rome, Italy, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - In response to the media campaign designed to portray Pope Benedict as covering up cases of sexual abuse by priests, various bishops in the Middle East have expressed their solidarity with the Holy Father.

In an interview with SIR news agency, Archbishop Emil Nona of Mosul said that in Iraq, “The faithful are convinced that all of this is propaganda against the Church, designed to smear her in the eyes of the world. There is certainly sorrow over what has happened,” he added. “For our part, we are explaining what the Pope has said about this scandal as well as the measures adopted to shed light on the different cases which are being addressed with firmness, transparency and severity.”

“The grave errors committed by a few cannot cast doubt on everything that the Church has always done in support of children, young people and those who are most vulnerable,” Mosul’s archbishop emphasized.

Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut said, “A scandal that is shaking the Church must not be used to discredit her... The Church, with the Pope at the helm, is confronting this scandal with firmness and it is good that people know this,” Bishop Kassarji affirmed.

“Trust in the Church must not be undermined by incidents like these that do not involve everyone,” he added. “Therefore, the testimony of intense prayer has never been more important than right now.”

The Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Alep, Syria made remarks saying, “We are witnessing a grave form of anti-Catholic propaganda that creates difficulties and must be confronted. We are comforted by the firmness of Benedict XVI in addressing this issue. For our part we are doing everything possible to correctly inform the faithful, even when it is difficult due to the fact that we do not have access to the media.”

Msgr. Salim Sayegh, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem in Jordan, said that the Catholic Church alone “has the courage to look inside herself to repair the mistakes.”

“We are close to Benedict XVI at this time in which he and the Church are being attacked,” he said.  “We have profound confidence in all the measures adopted to prevent similar things from happening again.”

“Here in Jordan,” he continued, “the faithful are close to the Pontiff and are determined to bear witness to their faith. We believe this is the best answer to those, including fundamentalist groups, who want to take advantage of these incidents.”

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Vatican must demonstrate same determination as Holy Father to overcome scandal, observes British newspaper

London, England, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, published an article in which it defended the actions of Pope Benedict XVI in his work to eradicate pedophilia within the Church. The publication also noted that change won't come about within the Church until the rest of the Vatican falls into stride with the Holy Father.

In a Monday morning editorial, the Telegraph observed that in his Easter message, "The Pope spoke from the heart because he has been prominent in the battle to expose abusers and those who have protected them." Alluding to the Pope's Letter to Irish Catholics, the British paper noted his apology as "sincere and absolutely merited by the monstrous nature of the betrayal."

In the piece, however, it was added that while the Pope has been on target, "It is unfortunate that the Vatican has not been able to maintain that tone."

The paper referred to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's Good Friday homily from St. Peter's in which he spoke of the current attacks on the Church and the Pope and compared them to the "collective violence suffered by the Jews."

Fr. Cantalamessa begged pardon for any offense in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera on Sunday, saying that "if against every intention of mine, I have irritated the sensibilities of the Jews and the victims of pedophilia, I am sincerely regretful and I ask forgiveness for it."

The editorial went on to say that a more productive approach to defending the Holy Father has been taken by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who the Telegraph remarked, "showed far greater sensitivity" on Sunday when he said that the Church is ashamed while at the same time "acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness."

The article concluded with a sharp line to Benedict XVI's collaborators within the Holy See, "Repairing the damage caused by the child abuse scandal will be a long process but cannot even start until the Vatican demonstrates the same determination to root out abuse – and the same penitence – as Pope Benedict himself has shown."

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Bishops around the world speak out in support of Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic leaders from around the world have expressed solidarity with the Pope in a united response to attempts by some media sources to connect him personally to cases of sexual abuse which reached a boiling point over Holy Week. One prelate remarked that the coincidence of the media pressure with the arrival of Easter is no accident.

L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), reported the words of many Catholic bishops in its Sunday edition, among which were comments from Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez. In a press conference last week, he said that Benedict XVI has maintained firmness, transparency and severity in reacting to cases, although some media outlets seek to "undervalue facts and force interpretations."

The archbishop from the Dominican Republic went on to say that the underlying cause for the offensive by some against the Pope in the U.S. and Europe is due to the firm position of the Church "in defense of life and its rejection of the crime of abortion."

Attempts have been made by some media sources in recent days to tie the Pope to the mishandling of cases of abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where he served 30 years ago, and to others which reached the Vatican while he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de Las Casas, spoke on Sunday of the Pope's line of actions, saying "while he was archbishop of Munich and later in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he always treated these cases with extreme delicateness and utmost responsibility."

Cardinal Norberto Rivera said from Mexico City, where he is archbishop, that the Church will in no way tolerate or defend any act of sexual abuse of minors and that because of the actions of "some dishonest and criminal priests" the Pope has had to confront "defamation and attacks" marked by "lies and cowardice."

Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, in his homily during the Chrism Mass last week said that through the trials of the Church in these moments, "we must also notice the offensive of the audiovisual media that celebrate Easter in their way concentrating on Holy Week their criticisms of the Church and of the Christian faith."

The cardinal continued to say that the most vulnerable to these attacks are those who are "less informed and less involved in the life of the Church" who are "bombarded by messages that present themselves as criticisms but that are nothing more than operations of propoganda... gross propoganda."

"In our democratic countries, Christians are still citizens on a level with all others but they are certainly not so in the treatment received by the information media," he asserted.

LOR underlined in the article that together with these and other messages, the Church adds the "painful admission of the faults to the past," and it will not allow any attempts at intimidation to distract it from "the duty to provide clarification."

In an interview with Italy's La Stampa, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, said that "the criticisms and the incomprehensions" have always existed and will always exist. "Our duty is to preach the word of Christ to all."

He added that "there will always be those who won't retain as sufficient or adequate our actions or reparations, but that which counts is the effectiveness of the intervention and the purity of hear with which it is carried out for the common good."

Cardinal Etchegaray also emphasized that following the example of Pope Benedict XVI "is the way that leads out of this storm."

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Record number confirmed in Baltimore, despite recent media attacks on Church

Baltimore, Md., Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - Despite the recent media attacks on the Church and Holy Father regarding clergy sex abuse scandals, one U.S. archdiocese set a record for confirming the most individuals in its history to the Catholic faith.

On Saturday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore confirmed a record 1,090 adults to the faith at the Easter Vigil Mass in parishes throughout the area, breaking the archdiocesan record for a second year in a row,  reported the Baltimore Sun on April 4.

“We're on a roll, I guess,” said Archbishop Edwin O'Brien to the Baltimore Sun. Although the bishop said he would like to credit the archdiocesan staff for the record numbers, “the rubber hits the road in the parishes,” he explained. “It's there where we find the real life of the Church.”

Local parishioner Rich Foster, 59, told the Baltimore Sun that the recently surfaced sex abuse scandals within the Church in the U.S. and Europe and the subsequent media attack on the Holy Father did not affect his decision to become Catholic.

“It reflects the frailties of all of us humans,” Foster said on Sunday. “We all have sinned … Part of what the church teaches us is reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness.” An attendee of New All Saints Church in Baltimore, Foster described his church as “a congregation that I see doing wonderful work in terms of giving back to the community, being open and welcoming to both church members and the outside community.”

“I think that outweighs to me any concerns that may arise in this current controversy,” he added. “I trust my church will go forward in a righteous manner, dealing with these issues directly.”

The record 1,090 individuals confirmed on Saturday surpasses the 984 confirmed in 2009. According to Sharon Bogusz, coordinator of evangelization and adult catechesis for the Baltimore Archdiocese, approximately one quarter of those confirmed were the newly baptized. Others were baptized Catholic as infants but did not receive further sacraments and the majority of those confirmed were from others Christian backgrounds whose baptisms the Church recognizes.

“It's wonderful,” Bogusz told the Baltimore Sun, “our parishes are really doing a lot of hard work and sharing news and welcome.”

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Archbishop Gomez appointed to Archdiocese of LA

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - This morning the Holy Father appointed current San Antonio Archbishop Jose H. Gomez as Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles, California, the largest diocese in the United States. The prelate will serve alongside current Cardinal Roger Mahony, and will take over his position when he retires.

Archbishop Gomez was born in 1951 in Monterrey, Mexico to Dr. José H. Gomez and Esperanza Velasco, both who are now deceased.

The prelate earned bachelor's degrees in accounting, philosophy and theology and was ordained an Opus Dei priest in 1978. In 1980, he obtained a doctorate in theology from the University of Navarre's Pamplona, Spain campus.

From 1987 to 1999, then-Father Gomez was in residence at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in San Antonio where he assisted with the parish's pastoral work. It was during this time that he became a regional representative to the National Association of Hispanic Priests (ANSH). In 1995 he was named president, then took on the role of executive director in 1999.

Archbishop Gomez played a central role in establishing the Hispanic Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City which opened in 2000.

Then in 2001, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver, where he served in several areas, including outreach to the Hispanic community. He also organized the establishment of Denver’s Centro San Juan Diego for Family and Pastoral Care, a place for formation of lay leaders and a base to provide welcoming services to immigrants.

In 2005, the year he was appointed Archbishop of San Antonio, he was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States, and in 2007 he was on a CNN’s list of “Notable Hispanics” in a web special celebrating “Hispanic Heritage Month.”

While the Archbishop of San Antonio, Most Rev. Gomez created the The Catholic Community Foundation for the Roman Catholic Church of the archdiocese and was key in bringing together Hispanic leaders for the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL).

Archbishop Gomez was also appointed in 2008 as a consultant to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He also serves in various roles for the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops including: chair of the task force on the Spanish Language Bible for the Church in America, chair of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, member of the Committee on Doctrine, and member of the Subcommittee on Hispanics and the Liturgy.

According to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in his new role, Archbishop Gomez will lead 4,329,267 Catholics (as of 2005), 530 diocesan priests, 640 religious priests, and 1,710 religious sisters.

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Archbishop Gomez ‘perfect choice’ to head Los Angeles, remarks Archbishop Chaput

Denver, Colo., Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - Reacting to the Vatican’s appointment of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez as coadjutor archbishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput noted that his confrere has a “great gift for bringing people together” and is the “perfect choice to lead the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after Cardinal Mahony retires.”

Archbishop Gomez was ordained a bishop by Archbishop Chaput in 2001. He served as Denver’s Auxiliary Bishop until he was installed as Archbishop of San Antonio in 2005. Archbishop Chaput said that people in Denver remember Archbishop Gomez with “great affection.”

Speaking of his brother bishop, Archbishop Chaput noted that “he played a very big role in making our Hispanic ministry one of the best in the country, but his impact and friendships went well beyond the Hispanic community.” “He has a great gift for bringing people together from very different backgrounds.”

The Archbishop of Denver also reflected on Pope Benedict's decision to choose Archbishop Gomez, calling him “the perfect choice to lead the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after Cardinal Mahony retires.”

“Archbishop Gomez will serve the Catholic people of Los Angeles with character, courage and good will. He has one of the best minds in the Church in the United States and a great capacity for work, but he combines those qualities with a personal warmth and respect for other people that make him a very effective leader,” the Denver prelate said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the largest diocese in the United States and is home to a large Hispanic population.

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Celibacy is a priceless gift from God, affirms Spanish cardinal

Barcelona, Spain, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, reminded priests last week that celibacy “should be embraced and lived out as a priceless gift from God,” despite efforts by some to portray it as the reason for sexual abuse within the Church.

The cardinal made his statements during the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of Barcelona last week and thanked the priests in attendance for their “ministerial work” and “fidelity to God and to the Church.”

He encouraged them to find “in your personal relationship with the Good Shepherd, the strength, the courage and the comfort of your pastoral work.”

Referring to the false accusations by the media against Pope Benedict XVI for his handling of cases of sexual abuse by some clergy members, Cardinal Sistach invited the faithful to pray for the Holy Father “so that the Lord might comfort him and grant him courage and peace.”

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Archbishop Gomez 'deeply grateful' for Los Angeles appointment

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the Vatican's announcement of his new appointment this morning, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez says that he is “deeply grateful” for being named the Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles, California, the largest diocese in the United States.

Archbishop Gomez currently serves as archbishop of San Antonio, Texas and will now serve alongside Cardinal Roger Mahony in L.A., taking his position when he retires on February 27, 2011.

Archbishop Gomez's remarks for a press conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels were published ahead of the event. In those comments he says, “words cannot fully describe my feelings” but “I am very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this opportunity to serve the Church with a mentor and leader like Cardinal Roger Mahony.”

“I’m especially grateful – very deeply grateful – to Cardinal Mahony himself and to my brother bishops, priests and deacons here in Los Angeles, for the warmth and good will they’ve shown me since learning of my appointment,” he adds.

“After I received the news of my appointment,” Archbishop Gomez recalls, “I went to the Chapel to spend some time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I asked for the grace to be generous and to give myself totally to God’s call. But I also asked for the strength to accept this new task, which is undoubtedly overwhelming. My only consolation is the fact that God is calling me and He is merciful and will help me to be faithful and to serve His people in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

“I’ll never forget that as I finished my phone conversation with Archbishop Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the first thing I saw was a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hallway and, as it has happened in every moment of my ministry, I felt Her love and protection,” he notes. “To Mary of Guadalupe, I would like to entrust my new ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

Speaking on the difficulty of relocating, Archbishop Gomez says, “I’m sad to be leaving San Antonio. I was born in Mexico, my sisters still live there, and I’m very proud of the Mexican love for life and family and faith that first turned my heart toward God. But my mother grew up in San Antonio and I first served as a priest in Texas. That’s where I became an American citizen, and I’m very proud of that, as well.”

“The people of San Antonio have a special goodness and grace that will always keep them close to me in my heart,” he underscored. “In their patience and generosity, they taught me how to be a bishop. I will never forget them, and I will never stop thanking God for the privilege of having served them.”

Looking ahead to where he will be serving, the archbishop comments, “When I was collecting my thoughts for today, I wrote down that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is one of the great Catholic communities in the United States.”

“But it’s really much more than that. It’s one of the great Catholic communities in the world. Los Angeles, like no other city in the world, has the global face of the Catholic Church,” the prelate observes.

“That fact invites us to do two things: first, to thank God for our diversity and the energy it creates; and second, to commit ourselves more deeply to the things that unite us – a zeal for Jesus Christ; confidence in the Gospel; reverence for the Eucharist; service to the poor; defense of the unborn child, the immigrant and the disabled; and a love for the Church as our mother and teacher.”

Archbishop Gomez concludes his press conference remarks, saying, “To the people and religious of the archdiocese, thank you for welcoming me into your hearts, and please never let me out of your prayers. A bishop can live with the criticism of the world. As every bishop very quickly discovers, it goes with the job description all the way back to the original twelve Apostles. But no bishop can live without the love and prayers of his people. So please, never forget Cardinal Mahony, my brother bishops or myself in your prayers.”

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Brazilian cardinal: Church does not deny or cover up abuse

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, urged the faithful this week to reject the media attacks on Pope Benedict XVI, emphasizing that the Church deeply “laments” the suffering of the victims caused by some members of the clergy.

In interview with the Brazilian daily, O Sao Paulo, the cardinal explained that the “Church does not deny, but infinitely laments the harm caused to some and to herself by her own members. 

“The Church does not teach members to commit crimes, she does not approve of them or cover them up, and she is clear that each person must be accountable for his actions to God and to mankind’s laws.”

Referring to reports that Pope Benedict XVI was supposedly responsible for covering up some abuse cases, Cardinal Scherer said the media campaign against the Holy Father “is being pushed and orchestrated for unsaid reasons.”

“To make the entire Church and each priest guilty for the crimes committed by some is unjust,” he said.  “On the other hand, it is necessary to recognize that, when certain ‘defects’ of the Church or her members are singled out, it is because there is an expectation that she and each of her members act and think in a way that clearly and discernibly bears witness to the high values and ideals she believes in and preaches,” the cardinal said.

“Unfortunately I have the impression that there is also an organized attempt to make the Pope personally responsible for these evils,” he added.

Asked about one local report claiming that the Holy See will be training new exorcists to combat the sexual abuse within the Church, Cardinal Scherer responded calling the speculation, “sensationalist.”

The prelate noted that although the Church has “never stopped teaching that the devil exists,” and she “has always maintained the rite of exorcism,” there has not been a “special recommendation by the Pope to increase exorcisms in the Church ... to resolve the sexual abuse scandals.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he said.

Noting that the solution to this problem lies in personal conversion, Cardinal Scherer encouraged Catholics “not to be carried away by the ‘marketing’ of religion and of our faith.  Our task is to courageously and intensely promote the proclamation of the truth and the formation of consciences in light of the truth of the Word of God and the righteousness of the moral law.”

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Italian political paper: NY Times needs consultants more than Vatican does

Rome, Italy, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The influential Italian political newspaper Il Foglio published an article today criticizing the New York Times for relying on a computer-generated translation from Italian to English of important responses from the Vatican to a sex abuse case. The failure to translate led the American newspaper to argue that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was protecting a sexually abusive priest from Milwaukee.

The article, titled “What the New York Times does not translate,” starts by saying, “Last Sunday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd returned to attack the Pope. Commenting on the words of exorcist Gabriele Amorth, who said that behind pedophile priests is the devil, Dowd suggested a way for the Catholic church to solve the problem: hire a ‘sexorcist.’"

Nevertheless, “after re-reading the NYT’s allegations against the current Pope on the case of the pedophile priest Lawrence Murphy, who abused hundreds of deaf children when he worked at a school in Milwaukee, it is the American newspaper which seems to be in need of some consultants,” the paper opines.

“Behind the accusations,” says Il Foglio’s senior writer Paolo Rodari, “there is a gross translation mistake.”

Rodari reviews how NYT’s Laurie Goodstein reconstructed the events on her March 25 article and concentrates on the correspondence between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Rembert Weakland, then of Milwaukee, his Auxiliary, Bishop Richard Skilba and the Bishop of Superior, Raphael Fliss.

“This is a meeting of crucial importance, because it reveals what path Bertone, on behalf of Ratzinger, decides to take once they know the facts.”

Il Foglio notes that the NYT story provides links to both the English and Italian version of the 1998 meeting, “but it omits to say one thing: the English version is a grossly distorted translation of the Italian, made with ‘Yahoo translator,’ a translation that the Vicar of the diocese, Thomas Brundage, sent to his authority, Bishop Fliss, to help him understand the Italian,” the Italian political paper explains.

According to Il Foglio, Fr. Brundage warned in his letter that “It is a very rough translation and the computer certainly cannot distinguish some of the peculiarities of canon law.”

The computer-generated English version would support the NYT’s allegations against Bertone and Ratzinger, “but that same conclusion is not possible if a correct review of the sources is done, in other words, if (the story) is based in the official text written by the CDF in Italian,” Rodari explains.

“And it is here, in the Italian version, that many important things are said.” “It is explained that either Fr. Murphy gives ‘clear signs of repentance’ or the canonical process will go to the end, including his dismissal from the clerical state.”
“But in the English version used by the NYT, instead, not only are some passages omitted, but frequently the contrary is said,” Rodari writes.

“It is true, Bertone requests to take into consideration Murphy’s frail physical condition, who indeed soon after dies. But he never says that because of such conditions the process should be stopped. He says, and this is omitted in the automated English version, that in order to help Fr. Murphy’s repentance, ‘a period of retreat may be granted,’ otherwise, the measure will be ‘more rigorous,’” the Italian paper states.

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Easter sees renewed hope for situation of Iraqi Christians

Mosul, Iraq, Apr 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Commenting on the long-troubled Christian communities of Iraq, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul said that Easter celebrations after Iraq’s general elections gave “new hope” to the people, with attendance at the Easter liturgy showing an increase over previous years.

More than 3,500 Christians had fled Mosul after a series of violent attacks on Christians before the March 7 elections, but many have returned in recent days.

Speaking on Tuesday with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Amil Nona said Christians now have new hope.

“The people clearly feel more confident after the elections. They have faith that things will now improve.”

“The Easter celebrations went very, very well. I am really happy about the way it went and it was clear the people felt happy too,” he told ACN. “You had people coming to the church who had not come for two or three years.”

The archbishop reported that security was high, with armed men posted outside the four churches in Mosul where Chaldean Catholic services were held.

Archbishop Nona became the world’s youngest Catholic archbishop at the age of 42 when he replaced Archbishop Farraj Rahho, who was kidnapped outside his cathedral in February 2008. He died in captivity two weeks later.

Elsewhere, Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako told ACN that Easter celebrations were also peaceful in his city. A delegation of local government officials and Muslim religious leaders attended the services.

In the north of Iraq, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, known as the Chaldean Sisters, provided Easter packages for 750 of the poorest families in villages outside the ancient Christian city of Zakko near the border with Syria and Turkey.

Fr. Bashar Warda, coordinator of the project, reported to ACN from outside Erbil, the regional capital in the Kurdish-controlled north.

The priest said the initiative was again a great success. The number of items in each package had been reduced from previous years to allow outreach to more families. Many families face extreme poverty since they fled their homes in the south and are desperate to start a new life abroad, he reported.

“The people were very happy to receive their hampers. The situation for them is very difficult and they are very grateful for the help they receive.”

The peace in some parts of Iraq contrasted with violence in Baghdad, where at least five people died and 140 were injured in six separate explosions.

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