Pontiff: Anti-Christian Attacks Hurt All Iraqis

Sends Message in Wake of Blasts at Churches in Kirkuk

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- An attack against the Christians of Iraq is an attack against the entire country, says Benedict XVI.

In a statement sent today to Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad on the Pope's behalf by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father laments attacks Sunday and Wednesday against Christian sites in Iraq.

"Deeply concerned to learn of the attacks on Christian targets in Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk which took place last Sunday and yesterday, the Holy Father expresses his spiritual closeness to the injured and their families," the statement said. "To Your Eminent Beatitude, as president of the assembly of Catholic bishops of Iraq, and to the archbishops of the cities concerned, he offers fraternal assurances of prayer as you seek to offer hope and strength to your people."

Wednesday's explosions, within two minutes of each other, were outside Kirkuk's Chaldean cathedral and the Assyrian Christian Maar Afram church.

On Sunday, two churches, a convent and an orphanage in Mosul, and three churches and a convent in Baghdad were also attacked.

Benedict XVI asked that his "heartfelt solidarity to the superiors of the religious communities affected by these attacks" be conveyed. He expressed "his sentiments of sincere solidarity with all members of the Christian communities in Iraq, Catholic and non-Catholic alike."

The statement continued: "Mindful that such attacks are also directed against the whole people of Iraq, His Holiness appeals to the perpetrators to renounce the ways of violence, which have caused so much suffering to the civilian population, and he encourages all those in authority to renew efforts toward peaceful negotiation aimed at a just resolution of the country's difficulties, respectful of the rights of all.

"Praying for a return to the peaceful coexistence of the diverse groups that make up the population of this beloved country, the Holy Father commends all the people of Iraq to the heavenly protection of our almighty and merciful Father."

Benedict XVI told diplomats on Monday that reconciliation in Iraq is increasingly urgent. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the Vatican's ambassador to Iraq that the government is committed to ensuring Christians' safety.