BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS): Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, Iraq, had just finished celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church and was talking to parishioners in the courtyard.
Moments later, while he was in his office, a bomb exploded on the road that runs alongside the church.
The July 12 bomb blast was one of six that targeted Christian churches in Baghdad on July 11 and 12; another church was bombed in the northern city of Mosul on July 13.
Contrasting the Mass with the mayhem that ensued, Bishop Warduni told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview, “We had been praying for peace during the Mass.”
He said “all the little children (had been) praying in the church. Then they ran outside to see the death, the destruction, to see the war.”
“It was hell,” he said.
“We cry: Why? Why? What is our fault? That we are Christians?” the bishop said.
The series of church bombings left at least four dead and more than 30 injured. A flare-up in violence last October claimed the lives of 13 Christians and forced thousands to flee Mosul.
“All the Christians are leaving,” Bishop Warduni told CNS on July 13. Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled to about half of what it was before the 2003 United States-led invasion.
The bishop asked the world to pray for Iraq.
“Prayer unites us as brothers,” he said. “We don’t have any weapon but prayer. With prayer, we can kill the war.”
The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported on July 13 that Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram to the Chaldean patriarch Cardinal Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, assuring him of Pope Benedict XVI’s prayers for the Catholic community in Iraq.
Iraqi officials announced on July 13 they were stepping up security around all Christian places of worship.