.- Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has described how the murder of two elderly Catholic sisters has shocked an entire community and heightened fears about the spread of anti-Christian violence in the country. Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he said that a Dominican nun telephoned him late in the evening on Monday the 26th to report the death of Fadila Naoum, 85, and her 79-year-old sister Margaret.
The archbishop said robbers broke into their home near Kirkuk’s City Hall and close to a Dominican convent where the nuns had close links with the sisters.
Describing Margaret as “dynamic” and very active in the Church, Archbishop Sako said Fadhila was bed-ridden. In a message to ACN on Tuesday, 27th, just hours after conducting the funeral, Archbishop Sako wrote: “We took care of Margaret and Fadhila. I am really moved and upset about the bad situation which appears to go on without end.”
The Archbishop said that contrary to previous reports, the sisters were not consecrated religious, but merely blood sisters who were very active in the Church and who lived the single life together. He went on to say that a police inquiry was underway but no arrests had been made.
He said he believed it was an attempted robbery and not necessarily religiously-motivated. But he added that the murders were likely to stoke fears that Kirkuk would begin to suffer the same anti-Christian violence which has begun to spread from Baghdad and Mosul. He said: “There are reports about how Christians in Kirkuk are now beginning to panic. But I am telling them not to be afraid. The situation here is not the same as in Baghdad and Mosul.” The violence in both cities and elsewhere has sparked a Christian exodus but Archbishop Sako said Kirkuk had so far only received 30 displaced families.
In his message, Archbishop Sako went on to report that the Kurdish city of Ainkawa was “not prepared” for the influx of Catholic communities. Ainkawa and the surrounding Erbil region is now home to Babel College, St Peter’s Seminary, and a number of female religious congregations, which have now been evacuated from the Baghdad area.