Priest says Christians in Iraq are dying out

.- The procurator of the Chaldean Patriarchate before the Holy See, Father Philip Najim, warned that the terrorist attacks, kidnappings and forced conversions are making the Church in Iraq disappear, as extremists have turned Christians into “sacrificial lambs.”

“Closed churches, car bombs, forced conversions, kidnappings: in Iraq Christians are dying.  The Church is disappearing because of persecutions, threats and violence from extremists who leave no other option: convert or flee,” Father Najim said during a Mass for the repose of the soul of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, who was killed on June 3 in Mosul together with three subdeacons.

Father Najim said the kidnapping of priests has become more common and the faithful are being forced to pay “taxes” if they want to remain in their homes or maintain their faith.  Such problems have led many Christians to immigrate to other countries as their only alternative, “renouncing their own roots, leaving behind their own homeland.”

Christians have become the “sacrificial lambs” that must be eliminated, he continued.  Extremists prevent them from freely professing their faith, they impose the Muslim veil on women and they remove crosses from churches.

In this sense, he said Father Ganni was “a martyr of this blood-stained Chaldean Church which Benedict XVI calls the Church of the living martyrs.”

“His martyrdom should be a new dawn for the life and future peace of Iraq, leaving room for Christian hope,” Father Najim said.  “We need the Holy See to encourage the Church in Iraq and all Christians to seek unity,” he stressed.

The Mass for Father Ganni was celebrated in the chapel of the Irish Pontifical College, where the martyred priest lived for five years.  Among those present were Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; Msgr. Mikhail Jamil, procurator of the Patriarchate of the Syrians of Antioquia before the Holy See; and Cardinal Desmond Connell, Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin.

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