My dearest Family and Friends,
Greetings from Antigonish.
I am delighted to share a special experience I encountered this past weekend in Iraq. Please come along too.
What a wonderful trip to Iraq with Pope Francis via EWTN this was!
Never before has a Papal visit ever touched my heart, as this one did. Can you imagine travelling into the Biblical Lands of the prophets and identifying there , with the Catholics of this day and age, as we travelled to places like Ur, the land of Abraham, and places like Nineveh, Land of the Chaldeans, and even Mosul, Baghdad, and such. ...in the Fertile Crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers? Breathtaking and heartbreaking from every point of view.
All we seemed to know about Iraq these past few years, was Sadam Hussein and the Taliban and Isis and war and more war, death and devastation. Yet, amidst the misgivings of the authorities both in Rome and in Iraq, our beloved Pope Francis broke protocol in the face of war and the pandemic, and went to Iraq to meet the Christians there. He received a hero’s welcome , not only by the Catholics, but by the Muslim Shiites, and other ancient Christian denominations, and wholeheartedly by the Government as well. From the get-go, amidst handshakes and wonderful speeches of welcome, Pope Francis gave his message of peace , harmony, goodwill, and religious tolerance for all religions and peoples in Iraq. The people felt so honoured, that, for the very first time in history, a Pope had come to visit them, and had shown them that he cared about them. The resulting welcome was beyond words, e’en as numerous gifts were exchanged and heartfelt words were spoken. Pope Francis received the Chaldean Cross which is a beautiful memento from Iraq, and his special gift to the church there was , a silver and gold engraved replica of an ancient etching. I loved it all.
This message from Pope Francis, was so well received, that the President of Iraq declared Saturday a public holiday in honour of Pope Francis and in honour of peace and religious toleration. How wonderful. Everybody loved Pope Francis, amidst smiles, translations and simple heartfelt signage. The language of the heart spoke louder than words. It was so beautiful
We also saw the devastation of war, amidst the rubble and senseless decapitation of statues and burning of homes, schools and churches, by Isis . And, we heard the heart wrenching stories of mothers who had lost their children to bombing, and Catholics being persecuted beyond understanding. Young men and women told of their terrible losses and fear of death, and how people chose to leave rather than convert to save their lives, e’en amidst the temptation of being paid to do so. How brave. How devout. How awesome.
I reiterate, that the true saving grace, was the beautiful adherence to the Christian Faith. The rebuilding of churches and homes amidst beautiful smiles and singing and the hope of life-saving grace from God Himself via Jesus. The people would rather die than give up their Jesus, they said. Now, that Isis has been defeated, many who had fled the country have returned to pick up the pieces and start life anew. And, guess what, Pope Francis has invited all Christian peoples who fled, to come back to Iraq to rebuild their lives and their church because of their Faith.
The Holy Masses , said in the newly rebuilt Cathedrals and Stadiums, were simply beautiful, celebrated in exactly the same way as we do around the world. It was hard to distinguish that this was happening in Iraq and not in Rome or anywhere else in the world. The languages of Arabic, Italian, Latin and Chaldean, with English translations were beautifully blended in without distraction. I feel sure the Holy Spirit was directing it all.
And, I loved the choirs where the youth, both girls and boys, sang with such joy and vim and vigor. I was wishing I could have been there to teach them ‘ BE NOT AFRAID’, YOU ARE NEAR’, ‘ ABBA FATHER’ and all the songs I had taught my choirs in my day. I was reminded of my choir at St. Ninian’s when fifty five boys and girls who first joined my choir some fifty years ago sang with the same joy and vigour as did the Iraqi youth for Pope Francis. What an overwhelming experience that was. How I wish I could have been physically there.
When I think about it, what made everything special for me, was the fact that these people are the direct descendants of the people in the Bible, no matter how many generations ago. It was so wonderful to see that God is with them, and they with Him. I still cannot get over it. It’s like being in the Old Testament somehow. The readings took on a meaning of their own as I recalled how much of the Bible is related to these people of Iraq. As a teacher of Ancient History, enhanced with a biblical bent, my heart has been very moved and very touched by this journey with Pope Francis, as I followed all the broadcasts this weekend. What a blessing.
Before signing off, I must thank Pope Francis for his brave and wonderful gift, not only to the people of Iraq, but to all of us as well, as we joined him on his monumentous journey.
Thank you with all my heart, and may God keep you safe, Pope Francis.
Well my dearest Family and Friends, I hope you too were moved , as was I, on your journey to Iraq with Pope Francis and the wonderful people of these ancient lands, this past weekend...
Much love and blessings. God bless.
Yvette de Souza-Muise