At a Mass at Saint Peter's Basilica on Saturday elevating twenty-three clerics to the cardinalate, Pope Benedict XVI created the first Iraqi cardinal, VOA News reports.
The Pope expressed special concern for all Iraqis in his sermon. He said that by calling the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church Emmanuel Delly to the College of Cardinals he wanted to express his spiritual closeness and affection for the Iraqi people. He called for the Church to reaffirm her solidarity with Iraqi Christians and asked God to bring peace and reconciliation to all Iraqis.
After the Mass, Cardinal Delly told well-wishers in Saint Peter's Square that it was a very happy day for him and "for all people, especially for Iraq." He repeated the Pope's call for prayer, saying "pray for us, pray for Iraq and for [the] population of Iraq."
The Chaldeans, who have one of the most ancient rites of the Church, are Iraq's largest Christian group but their numbers are in decline. Many Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the war began in 2003 to escape the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Several Iraqi churches have been bombed and priests have been among those kidnapped and killed.