"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Church in Iraq

The recent and appalling news that certain Chaldean Christians from Iraq may be deported from the United States is an outrage of the first order. But it is not a surprise. The foreign policy of this country, as with most other historically identified "Christian" countries, has rarely if ever given two hoots about the plight of Eastern Christians. That was as true during, e.g., the Crimean War of the 19th century through any of the conflicts of the 20th, and now 21st, centuries.

The Christian communities in Iraq have, for a very long time now, been living under less than ideal circumstances, but since the 2003 war, which the Catholic Church rightly opposed, their plight has been almost unbelievable. But prior to the recent violence, Christianity in Iraq has a long and noble history, some of which is told in a book set for release this coming September: The Church in Iraq by Fernando Cardinal Filoni, trans. Edward Condon (Catholic University of America Press, 2017), 216pp.

About this book we are told:
The persecution of the church in Iraq is one of the great tragedies of the twenty-first century. In this short, yet sweeping account, Cardinal Filoni, the former Papal Nuncio to Iraq, shows us the people and the faith in the land of Abraham and Babylon, a region that has been home to Persians, Parthians, Byzantines, Mongols, Ottomans, and more. This is the compelling and rich history of the Christian communities in a land that was once the frontier between Rome and Persia, for centuries the crossroads of East and West for armies of invaders and merchants, and the cradle of all human civilization. Its unique cultural legacy has, in the past few years, been all but obliterated.
The Church in Iraq is both a diligent record and loving testimonial to a community that is struggling desperately to exist. Filoni guides the reader through almost two thousand years of history, telling the story of a people who trace their faith back to the Apostle Thomas. The diversity of peoples and churches is brought deftly into focus through the lens of their interactions with the papacy, but The Church in Iraq does not shy away from discussing the local political, ethnic, and theological tensions that have resulted in centuries of communion and schism. Never losing his focus on the people to whom this book is so clearly dedicated, Cardinal Filoni has produced a personal and engaging history of the relationship between Rome and the Eastern Churches. This book has much to teach its reader about the church in the near East. Perhaps its most brutal lesson is the ease with which such a depth of history and culture can be wiped away in a few short decades.

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