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Pope Francis delivers sermon in Baghdad church

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Pope Francis is reminding Iraq’s Chaldean Catholics of one of the core tenets of the Catholic faith: that those who are persecuted, poor and mourn are blessed.

Francis honored Iraq’s persecuted Christians by celebrating Mass on Saturday at the Chaldean Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. It was the first time a pope has celebrated a Mass using the Chaldean rite that is known to most Iraqi Catholics.

Despite concerns about coronavirus infections, the church was full, stuffy with incense and a maskless choir sang hymns and chanted Scripture readings. Francis, who is vaccinated against COVID-19, did not wear a mask, but priests and faithful did.

For his sermon, Francis delivered a meditation on the Beatitudes, taken from Jesus’ sermon that in God’s eyes, those who are blessed are not the wealthy, powerful or famous, but “the poor, those who mourn, the persecuted.”

He said: “Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus.”

Francis is visiting Iraq to give a spiritual boost to its dwindling Christian communities who were routed from their homes by the Islamic State group and face continued threat from Shiite militias. Chaldean Catholics are believed to represent around 80 percent of the estimated 300,000 Christians left in Iraq.

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