mercoledì, marzo 19, 2014


Iraqi Catholic Students greeted by Pope Francis

Joan Lewis

It was a big Sunday for Pope Francis as he recited the noon Angelus with a huge crowd in a very warm, sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, and later that afternoon presided at Mass at a Roman parish outside the capital city.
But it was an even bigger Sunday for a group of Iraqi students from Mar Qardakh Catholic school in Erbil, the capital of the region of Kurdistan. The group of 33 – students, teachers and administrators and their chaplain, Fr. Douglas – had arrived Rome Saturday evening.
The students attend the new Catholic school built by Bishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, one of three dreams he has realized or is realizing in his diocese since being conscrated a bishop in July 2010: a school, a hospital and a university. Bishop Warda was formerly the rector of the Chaldean seminary in Ankawa, a neighborhood of Erbil where the Mar Qardakh school is located.
I interviewed Bishop Warda in Erbil several days after his consecration and that is when he told of me his dreams.We also spoke about this during an appearance with Fr. Mitch Pacwa in EWTN studios in 2012. I have been keeping up with events and people in Erbil over the years and thus I knew of the visit by these students as part of a brief but intense European trip – Paris, Rome and Turin, Italy – to study schools that offer the IB (International. Baccalaureate) program with a view to eventually establishing the IB at Mar Qardakh.
I investigated the possibility of the group attending Pope Francis’ morning Mass during their brief time in Rome but those Masses are planned well in advance and there was no space available the days the group was in Rome. However, a priest close to the Holy Father suggested that I wrote a note to ask the Pope to mention the students during the Sunday Angelus when he greets groups. I did just that, making the note brief and even writing out the pronunciation of the school name.
I agreed to meet the group yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Square near the mobile post office. They came on time, armed with huge smiles, banners, and many flags, large and small. I explained that the Pope would speak in Italian and start with reflections on the day’s Mass readings. He would then pray the Angelus and the words in Italian would be flashed on the megascreens, after which he would deliver any special message he might have and then greet groups.
The Iraqis cheered loudly when the Pope appeared at his window, listened attentively when he spoke, prayed the Angelus and then we all paused to listen to the greetings.
We heard Francis’ many greetings to groups and organizations and parishes. He also called for prayers for the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysian airliner, and for their families and loved ones. And he addressed the members of the Pope John XXIII Community, founded by the Italian priest Oreste Benzi, and mentioned the Via Crucis organized for Friday evening in Rome for women who are victims of trafficking.
Towards the end, Pope Francis said; “I greet the many school groups present from Italy and other countries but I can’t name them all. However I would like to remember the Mar Qardakh Catholic School of Erbil in Kurdistan.”
When I heard the Pope say he could not mention all groups, I felt badly for the students until I heard Francis say, “however…….”
And this was their reaction:

See the videos by Joan Lewis about the Iraqi children in Rome by clicking here.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?