QARAQOSH, Iraq — Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, visiting from the patriarchate in Beirut, led about 20,000 Christians through the streets of Qaraqosh Palm Sunday, March 28.
Patriarch Younan told the faithful that the Syriacs of Qaraqosh “are the pupils in the eyes of our Syriac Church. You are the best lung in which our Syriac Church breathes, this lung that exudes faith, preaches goodness, and invites us all to renew our hope in the Lord Jesus in the midst of difficulties and challenges, for He is the one who says, ‘Do not be afraid.’”
Patriarch Younan referred to Pope Francis’ early March visit to Qaraqosh as a “wedding.”
“Today is your feast … that follows the wedding that Qaraqosh witnessed, and you were the heroes of this wedding when you received His Holiness, Pope Francis … as the messenger of peace and brotherhood, love and tolerance for Iraq,” the patriarch said.
About 60% of Qaraqosh’s 50,000 Syriac Catholic residents have returned from their exile in the Kurdistan region to their homes, which had been destroyed and burned by the Islamic State group and repaired with the help of Catholic organizations.
“There are many brothers and sisters” who are absent from “their beloved Qaraqosh,” Patriarch Younan said, noting that thousands of families had left Iraq. “But they are with you and with us today in this joy that fills your hearts.”
The previous day, Patriarch Younan celebrated Mass outdoors at the cathedral in Irbil. On the feast of the Annunciation, he consecrated Al-Tahera Syriac Catholic Church, where Pope Francis had visited. It had been burned and desecrated by Islamic State militants.
Pope gives $350,000 to help suffering Iraqi families
VATICAN CITY — Before returning to Rome from Iraq March 8, Pope Francis left $350,000 to assist families still suffering the impact of conflict or in dire straits because of the economic crisis and the
COVID-19 pandemic, said Cardinal Louis Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.
The papal donation became public when Cardinal Sako published his letter thanking Pope Francis for his early March visit to the country, which, he said, touched the hearts of all Iraqis, Christian and Muslim.
Speaking to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Sako said the Catholic bishops of the country had the “joyful” duty of helping families in the pope’s name without distinguishing between families of different religions or ethnic identities. “The donation is a sign of just how real and concrete the pope’s love for the whole Iraqi people is,” the cardinal said
The sum has been divided for distribution, he said, with $250,000 being distributed from Baghdad, $50,000 being handled by the Chaldean Church in Mosul and another $50,000 being distributed by the Syriac Catholic archdiocese that includes Qaraqosh, a town in the north visited by Pope Francis.
“We have already distributed 12,000 packages of food throughout the country,” Cardinal Sako said March 31. Aid has reached families in Najaf, Basra, Kirkuk and Zakho.