By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic
Iraqi Christians have waited for a papal visit for decades, and on Friday, March 5 the historic event was finally happening.
“It is a great occasion for them,” said Fr. Sabah Kamora, pastor of St. Paul’s Chaldean Parish in Surrey, B.C. who previously served the Chaldean Catholic community in Saskatoon. He said Pope John Paul II had originally planned a trip to Iraq in 2000, but due to instability and fears for his safety was unable to make the trek.
Twenty-one years later, Pope Francis’ visit scheduled March 5-8 had the potential to bring a much-needed message of hope to Iraqis.
“I think just his visit is a great hope,” said Fr. Kamora March 4. “His message is, ‘I am with you.’ Like Jesus, when the disciple was afraid … He said, ‘I will be with you at all time.’ That’s the message of Pope Francis.”
Though some have voiced fears for Francis’ health and safety as he travels to a conflicted country in the midst of a pandemic, Kamora trusts God will protect the Pontiff.
“By the will of God everything was arranged,” he said. “Maybe God will protect him and the Iraqi people, and protect all the people that are gathering there.”
Born in Mosul, but serving Catholics in Surrey for the last few years, Fr. Kamora said there is no doubt he and many of his Iraqi parishioners will tune into live television coverage as Pope Francis tours their war-torn homeland, views destroyed churches, meets with government and religious leaders, and prays for victims of war and for peace.
“Thank God and thank Pope Francis, because he is a person who protects the weak people and the needy people and all the people that are in terrible situations.”