In a telegram dated 11 January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his spiritual closeness with the victims and their families injured by extremist attacks against churches in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul on 6 and 9 January.
Signed by the Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., the English-language telegram was sent to Cardinal Emmanuel III, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, who heads the largest church in Iraq.
In the telegram, Cardinal Bertone expressed the Holy Father’s “solidarity” with church leaders affected by the attacks as well as with “all Christian communities in Iraq, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. ” He also appealed to the perpetrators “to renounce the ways of violence, which have caused so much suffering to the civilian population” and encouraged all of Iraq’s leaders “to renew efforts towards peaceful negotiation aimed at just resolution of the country’s difficulties, respectful of the rights of all. ”
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the unraveling of Iraq, Islamist extremists have targeted its Christians, which before the war included up to a million people, or just 5 percent of Iraq’s population. According to most international observers, the disproportionate number of Iraqis who have fled their homes are Christian.