On the occasion of the Pope's trip to Iraq, Grand Master Cardinal Filoni - part of the pontifical delegation - received affectionate messages from many local leaders of the Order around the world. After having read such emotional messages, which were full of spiritual depth, the Grand Master decided to write a few lines to share his impressions with the Dames and Knights of the Order, knowing that they contributed to the success of the event thanks to their prayers.
Iraq is a country that has been in great need of a visit from the Pope.
Even if it was “locked down” due to security and Covid, its people were able to participate by following every moment of the Pontiff’s words and events on TV. I am very grateful to have been invited by the Pope and thus able to participate in this pastoral visit so desired by the Iraqi’s, especially by the Christians and minorities.
After many years of bad news, of violence and human and social traumas, it seemed to me that Iraq – after a lengthy lent – celebrated the day of the “Resurrection”, its Easter. Thus I thought of this historical event, also full of emotion for me personally, as I saw places and people once more with whom I had shared both sufferings and hopes.
Ur remains the strongest symbolic place for dialogue between monotheistic religions that refer to the Patriarch Abraham. Mossul and Qaraqosh have been symbolic places for the people of Mossul, who witnessed this ancient city destroyed and ransacked; and for the Christians of Qaraqosh, who were also driven out of nearby villages in the unfortunate occupation by Isis (2014-2017). The Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad has been the symbol-place of many Christians’ martyrdom where numerous priests, children, women and men have been slaughtered by terrorist fanaticism.
Yet here I met a young girl, ‘Light’ (a pseudonym). When I saw her for the first time in 2001 she was only a few months old; she was phocomelic but her face was bright and intelligent. She had not been “eliminated” because she had been taken in by the Sisters of Mother Theresa, who were wanted in Iraq by the then powerful Saddam Hussein. Now she is a young woman, with a sweet and friendly face, who speaks English. We looked at each other with mutual wonder.
For me it was the miracle of charity and life that is stronger than any misfortune.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni