Erbil, Iraq, Mar 5, 2021 / 11:19 am America/Denver (CNA).
When Vida Hanna was told by the Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil that Pope Francis was coming to Iraq, she thought to herself it was just another rumor.
Growing up in the Chaldean Catholic community in Erbil, Hanna, 27, was a little girl when there were rumors that St. John Paul II was planning to come to Iraq for the Jubilee 2000.
“But once I saw the official announcement from the Vatican, I knew this time it was for real,” she told CNA from her office at the Catholic University in Erbil.
Hanna, who graduated with a masters degree in peace and justice studies at USD San Diego, is the director of public and international relations at the Catholic university, and Archbishop Warda appointed her as one of the coordinators of the Mass Pope Francis will celebrate March 7 at Erbil's Franso Hariri Stadium.
“COVID has devastated the local economy, so organizing an event of this magnitude, even for the local Kurdish autonomous authorities, was financially impossible,” Hanna said. But according to her, the Knights of Columbus stepped in on their own initiative. “With their usual generosity and discretion, they made this dream possible for the whole community,” she added.
“Calling this event historical is almost an understatement for all minorities, especially Christian, after centuries of massacre, persecutions, and forced displacement.”