By Linda Bordoni
Baghdad’s parish priests have decided to donate their salaries to help the poor and the people most affected by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Their contribution, that should result in about 25 million Iraqi dinars, will be added to 90,000 US dollars already allocated by the Chaldean patriarchate for the same reason.
The decision came at the end of a meeting on Friday evening between the priests, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq, and auxiliary bishops Shemon Warduni and Basil Yaldo.
Fragile socio-economic reality
The Covid-19 pandemic hit Iraq in late February, when the country was in its most fragile and vulnerable state, with a caretaker government and a wave of mass protests that had started in October 2019.
The devastating economic consequences of a lockdown on the economy, combined with the sharp drop of oil prices and the security and political issues that have undermined Iraq for more than a decade, have set the stage for much suffering.
Discussing the current situation and precautionary measures dictated by the pandemic, the Chaldean Primate reiterated the need to respect social distancing in churches and uphold government health directives and lockdowns to counter the spread of the disease.
To this end, all group activities within the parishes remain suspended until further notice, including catechism and activities for youth.
Cardinal Sako also noted that the Chaldean Church plans to further use the Internet and social media to keep in touch with the faithful.
Church’s commitment and closeness to the poor
He confirmed the Church's commitment and closeness to the poorest and neediest families, and in a plea to the Christian community, the patriarch stressed that “at this historical and fateful time, all Iraqis must put aside their personal struggles and interests” to promote “shared action and solidarity against the common enemy" that threatens lives, the economy and social and religious relations.
According to official statistics, Iraq has almost 1,800 reported cases of the new coronavirus with 83 deaths.
However medical sources and independent analysts claim the toll is much higher and some doctors have reportedly been targeted by police for reporting three times more cases.