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New Hope for the Assyrian Churches of Iraq and Syria
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Qamishli, Syria -- "The land that was attacked a few years ago by the militants of the Islamic State, who wanted to eliminate Christians, today rejoices aloud. Our faith and our Cross have won". Father Karam Shamasha, a Chaldean priest from Mosul, thus expresses his emotion at the spectacle that he has seen happen in the cities of the Nineveh Plain. The sign of the miracle that provokes their joy is not the massive return of all the baptized who fled the region in recent years and emigrated abroad, nor the political affirmation of some Christian party, but the photos of the 126 boys and girls of the cities of Alqosh and Telskuf who received their first communion at the end of April.

With the arrival of spring and Easter time, the celebrations of the first communions of children, in which the sacramental mystery of the Church is called upon, are celebrated everywhere as a powerful sign of how grace has preserved the faith in the local Christian communities, in the years of conflict and convulsions that have disrupted the daily lives of many people both in Iraq and in Syria, and after the limitations imposed on liturgical celebrations by the arrival of the pandemic.

The celebrations of first communions, precisely in their simplicity of gesture lived in the daily life of the Church, release feelings of gratitude and confidence in the future that unite all the Churches of the East in the shared testimony of the grace of Christ that acts through the sacraments.

On April 29, in Baghdad, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, also administered First Communion to 16 boys and girls in the Church of Saint Elias. "The gift of the sacraments and the opportunity to participate in the divine mysteries - said the Patriarch on that occasion - represent the source of Christian life: Baptism gives the new birth in Christ, and the Eucharist - added the Iraqi Cardinal, citing Saint Ephrem the Syrian - is the food of hearts for eternal life."

On Sunday, May 1, 45 young Syrian Orthodox Christians received Holy Communion for the first time in the Qamishli church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Eucharistic liturgy was celebrated by Mor Maurice Amsih, Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Jazirah and the Euphrates: "These boys and girls are for us the hope of the future, they are the new lifeblood of the Church", commented Bishop Maurice to the local Christian station Suroyo TV.

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