Iraqi Church Leader Says Security Situation Improving for Christians

Emmanuel Delly III, the Iraqi head of the Chaldean Christian church, says security for Christians is improving Iraq.

Delly, one of 23 Roman Catholic leaders recently elevated to the position of cardinal by the pope, told Italy-based news agency Adnkronos International (AKI), "The security situation in Iraq is improving for everyone, including us Christians.

"Christians in Iraq are not separated from other members of society so if the security situation improves, everyone will benefit."

In the interview, Delly spoke of the importance of unity in Iraq and of the cohesion between the diverse groups in the country.

Around three percent of Iraq's population are Christian (600,000-800,000 people), although many Iraqi Christians fled the country for fear of sectarian violence following the allied invasion of 2003.

Approximately 70 percent of Christians in Iraq are part of the Chaldean community., which recognizes the authority of the pope despite being aligned with eastern rite churches and having its own liturgy and leadership. The Chaldean Church is also found in other parts of the world including the United States, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Australia.

On the subject of inter-religious dialogue, Delly said, "I hope that the Vatican continues to speak to other religions.

"Our objective is not to proselytize but to collaborate and live together with others," he added.

During a meeting late last month of the world's Catholic cardinals, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, briefed the cardinals on relations with other Christians, focusing on the church's relations with the Orthodox, Protestants and Pentecostal movements.

According to the Associated Press, Kasper said the rise of independent, often "aggressive" evangelical movements in Africa and elsewhere had complicated the church's ecumenical task. Nevertheless, the Vatican official told reporters that "ecumenism is not an option but an obligation."

Kasper also spoke highly of the renewal of ties with the Orthodox Church. Earlier last month, the Vatican released a joint declaration with the Orthodox Church in which Orthodox leaders recognized the Roman Catholic pope as the highest rank in the unified Church.

Although Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II, who represents around 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, did not sign the accord, Kasper remained optimistic, saying that a meeting between Alexis II and Benedict would help heal the rift.

Kasper also admitted that relations with Protestant churches were strained earlier this year by a Vatican document claiming that the Catholic Church was the "one true church of Christ.

According to Agence France Presse, the cardinal said that the amount of criticism over the document was unjustified but conceded that the Catholic Church needed to be more careful in presenting such views.

Kasper said that the Catholic Church had to "give witness to the richness and beauty of our own faith in a positive and welcoming way," rather than pointing out the weaknesses of other faiths, AFP reported.

He also said that there were encouraging signs emerging from dialogue with Protestants although there were still "differences in the moral domain."

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