Canonical visit of the Master of the Order to Iraq in the footsteps of Abraham [UPDATE]

From 27 December 2023 to 3 January 2024, the Master of the Order, brother Gerard Francisco Timoner III, OP accompanied by his socius, brother Alain Arnould, OP carried out the canonical visit of the Dominican friars to Iraq. Throughout their visit to the two communities in Baghdad and Erbil, the Provincial of France, brother Nicolas Tixier, OP honoured them with his presence. Thanks to his experience and his regular visits to the brothers of his province who are working for the Order’s mission in the country, he was able to advise them during this memorable week. Today, at a time when the people of Iraq are having to heal the wounds inflicted by the atrocities of successive wars, and while tensions persist, the Order’s centuries-old mission in Iraq takes on a particularly important dimension. 

During these few days, the Master of the Order was able to meet and encourage the Dominican family: the friars, the apostolic sisters of St Catherine of Siena and of the Presentation of Tours, a delegation of the 250 lay Dominicans of the country, including the youth group of Erbil, as well as the two Dominicans who serve the local Church as bishops. 

The mass exodus of Christians from Iraq has considerably changed the country’s religious landscape, but the Christians who have remained faithful to their land are signs of hope for this country where faith has taken root. The visit to Ur was therefore highly symbolic. In the ruins of the city of Abraham, the Master of the Order presided over a Eucharist surrounded by a delegation of Dominican brothers and sisters. 

Another highlight of the visit was the Eucharist celebrated in the Dominican church of Mosul. During the last war, the Dominican convent and church were severely damaged by Daesh, but thanks to UNESCO’s ‘Reviving the Spirit of Mosul’ program and funding from the United Arab Emirates, it was able to rise from the ashes. As the Master of the Order pointed out in his homily, “Where the blood of innocents flowed, the memory of the One who shed his blood for many for the forgiveness of sins is today celebrated”. The emotion that accompanied this celebration and the warm meeting with the workers who took part in the reconstruction will remain indelible memories. 

In Erbil, the visitators were also able to appreciate the work carried out by the Centre Numérique des Manuscrits Orientaux, which saved from destruction, among other treasures, manuscripts and archival documents from the Dominican convent of Mosul, belonging to the Province of France. Thanks to the co-financing of the Province of France, the conservation and restoration of the manuscripts offer future generations precious witnesses to the rich Dominican history and Christian presence in Iraq.

The canonical visitors were moved by the faith of the faithful and by the commitment of the Iraqi Dominican brothers and sisters to parish life, academia, education, culture, hospitality and inter-religious dialogue. They encouraged the brothers to dare to envisage a vision for the future of the Dominican mission in Iraq and to be witnesses of unity and peace in a complex social and ecclesial context still so marked by divisions and violence. In this way, they will be signs of hope for this land where Abraham, so many prophets and so many Christians have transmitted God’s message for thousands of years.

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