Elevation of new Iraqi cardinal draws attention to country’s plight

Pope Benedict XVI grasps the hands of Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad during the consistory. (CNS/Paul Haring)Not to be missed in today’s coverage of the consistory to create new cardinals is the fact that the elevation of Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad should help focus the world’s attention on the plight of Christians in Iraq.

Our story by Carol Glatz of our Rome bureau details the sad history of one Iraqi priest who came to the Vatican for the celebration:

Chaldean Father Basel Yaldo, 37, was among those who came to Rome to see his patriarch elevated. Father Yaldo was kidnapped for three days in September 2006, just after Pope Benedict’s controversial remarks about Islam in Regensburg, Germany, inflamed part of the Muslim world. Death threats against the priest were so serious that he was transferred from Baghdad to a parish in Michigan.

Jerry Yono, a Chaldean businessman in Southfield, Mich., said Father Yaldo had been beaten so badly by his captors that he was unable to walk properly for a long time.

“He’s only just now back to normal,” Yono said.

Speaking to CNS through a translator, Father Yaldo said Nov. 23 that he had not been kidnapped for money, but that his abductors instead “had some conditions.”

Yono said one of the conditions was to tell Cardinal Delly that all Christians were to leave Iraq.

Father Yaldo said his and his family’s lives had been threatened and that it was still too dangerous for him to return to Iraq, where his family remains.

“They cannot afford to leave, they can’t get visas, and if they leave their house will be taken away” by Muslims, he said.

Cardinal Delly said he would stay in Iraq and continue to lobby political and religious leaders to work together to create peace and improve security in the country.

There’s more further on in the story about the debate among Iraqi Christians over whether they can someday return home and what Iraq’s nascent government is trying to do to help people live in harmony once the current strife subsides.

The least we can do, now that the pope has highlighted their struggles, is to keep them in our prayers, as the U.S. bishops suggested at their general meeting in Baltimore earlier this month.

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