Fr. Rayan P. Atto's parish in Mar Qardagh ad Erbil, Iraq will be "present" for the Pope's celebration for World Youth Day 2010 (WYD) from the Holy See on Thursday evening. The priest said that for his Chaldean Catholic community, spiritual commuion with other youth preparing for WYD has become a tradition.
Members of Fr. Atto's parish will "virtually" join the Holy Father to celebrate the 25th anniversary of WYD, SIR news reported on Thursday.
For the Chaldean priest and his parish, it won't be the first time they take part in World Youth Day celebrations. He took a small group to Sydney and is working out the details to make the pilgrimage to Madrid in 2011.
Preparations have been underway in St. Peter's Square for this year's celebration all week. An enormous stage has been erected on the steps of St. Peter's and young people have been gathered in the school since this morning. The sounds of drums and singing fill the air as the square prepares to receive an expected 70,000 young people.
"To be physically present at World Youth Day is a dream, especially for young Iraqis," Fr. Atto told SIR. "Like in Sydney, also for Madrid, we'd like to take the witness of our faith, our attachment to the Lord that helps us to live in the difficult situation that Iraq has been going through for years," he said.
Asked about the difficulty of securing visas to enter Spain, when there is no Spanish embassy in Iraq, the priest responded, "Difficult? Life has never been easy for the Iraqi people and challenges don't scare us. We will also be in Madrid."