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Meeting with Iraqi Governing Council

posted on 17 December 2003
A team led by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, representing Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, today held a meeting with representatives of the new Iraqi Governing Council in Archbishop's House, London. The meeting was arranged at the request of the Iraqi delegation and was facilitated by the UK Foreign Office.

There was agreement at the meeting that pluralism and freedom, including religious freedom, are indispensable for the future of Iraq and the active participation of Iraqs faith communities, most of which are represented on the Governing Council, will be critical to the successful rebuilding of civil society in Iraq. Genuine political freedom, and social development, will be strengthened by the guarantee of religious freedom.

The delegation stressed how keenly it felt the need for Iraqis to re-assume control over the civil and political institutions of their country. Commenting, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, said

The clear recognition that true freedom for Iraqis must mean more than the absence of political oppression was very striking.

'Political and religious freedom always go hand-in hand. Both must be guaranteed by a new Iraqi constitution.

'I have no doubt that the Catholic community in this country will play an active and generous role in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq.

Bishop Tom Burns, Bishop of the Forces, added:

The fact that the Governing Council asked for this meeting underlines that the contribution of people of faith is central to the rebuilding and long-term stability of Iraq.

In a written message to the Iraqi delegation, which was read at the beginning of the meeting, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said:

' I know how testing a challenge you face in building a future for your people based on mutual respect and which guarantees peace and freedom including religious freedom - for all.'

Christians in Iraq form around 3% of the country's 24 m population (CIA Factbook 2003) and include two major groups:

1. The Catholics (650,000) A. Chaldean Rite: more than 600,000 with one patriarch (Babylon in Baghdad); four archdioceses (Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra & Arbil; and five dioceses (Alqosh, Amadijah, Aqra, Sulaimaniya & Zakhu)
B. Syrian Rite: more than 47,000 with two archdioceses (Baghdad and Mosul)
C. Latin (Roman) Rite: more than 4000 with one archdiocese (Baghdad).
D. Armenian Rite: more than 3000 with one archdiocese (Baghdad).

2. The Other Christians (200,000)A. The Church of the East, formerly Nestorian. More than 150,000.
B. Syrian Orthodox: More than 40,000.
C. Armenians. More than 5000.
(1993 estimates by Fr Michael Bazzi)
Contact Details:
Austen Ivereigh
Telephone: 020 7798 9045 or 07905 224860
posted on 17 December 2003

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