Public celebrations planned for Christmas in Iraq have been canceled by the Catholic Church due to the climate of civil war which has been undermining the country since October 2019.
Following the visit of the Secretary of State of the Holy See on December 24, 2018, December 25 has officially become a public holiday in Iraq. But given the state of the country, the Chaldean rite Catholic patriarchate of Babylon has announced the suppression of the Christmas festivities.
It is obviously not a question of canceling the feast itself, but of limiting its pomp and decorum to liturgical celebrations only: “we are not going to install decorated fir trees, neither in the churches, nor in the squares, and there will be no celebrations or festive ceremonies at the patriarchate,” said Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, on December 3, 2019.
The political and social unrest that has plagued the Baghdad region since last October was behind this decision. The riots have so far killed 430 people and nearly 20,000 have been injured. They tirelessly denounce the corruption of the political class, accused of having wiped out the equivalent of twice the country’s annual GDP since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
It was “out of respect” for these victims and “in solidarity with the pain of their families” that the Patriarch of Babylon decided to reduce the splendor of the public festivities: “We will take refuge in prayer for the victims.”
Recollection and sobriety should allow the faithful to taste in a more authentic way the spirit of Christmas: a great lesson for Western consumer societies.
While there were still 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Christians in Iraq now number only 400-500,000. The persecutions of the Sunni Islamic State (IS) organization and pro-Iranian Shiite militias have forced into exile the people who have not been massacred.