Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It is once again very late in the day and once again I have a very early morning wake-up call and a long day of travel so Im going to cheat a bit in this column and bring you a very brief description of a very important meeting and some photos.

I had an invitation to visit Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk today, an oil rich region that is disputed some want it to belong to the northern region of Kurdistan, some to Arab Iraq and Baghdad and yet others want it to be autonomous. Will the March 7 elections tell us the bottom line to that story?

There is much to tell about the archdiocese of Kirkuk, its 7000 plus Catholics out of about 10-12,000 Christians, and its relationship and that of its archbishop to the other dioceses and bishops of Iraq. You will be able to hear Archbishop Sako tell his story and the frank story of the problems that Christians face, from both outside and inside their Church, in my interview with him on my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider. That will air this coming weekend, February 20 and 21, and the following one as well.

I will also tell the in-depth story here on these pages, including our ride to Kirkuk through military checkpoints but that will be for another day. If I write too much now Ill be able to watch the sun rise and Id prefer to talk to you all on our morning show Son Rise!

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kirkuk.

A view of the inside of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

A detail of the transept of the cathedral two of the four evangelists.

Archbishop Sako with two deacons (I believe they were deacons as I forgot to ask him) as they read psalms at the start of the liturgy in Chaldean and Arabic.

We visited the library, which is frequented by many Muslims as well as Catholics

and the nursery run by Sr. Lucy

Some of the little ones were taking naps

Archbishop Sako showed us were the wall had been repaired from a bomb attack in 2008 - A warning, he said. There was, in fact, a policeman outside the walls of the cathedral compound as we crossed over from the archbishops residence.

There is also a dispensary for the poor and needy with doctors services and medicines provided at no cost.

The archbishop invited us to lunch here he is serving lentil soup It is Lent, after all, he said.

He also served us "Jonahs fish."

Here I am with Archbishop Sako outside his residence.

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