Benedict XVI told a group of Chaldean bishops from Iraq it was important to keep their culture and faith alive during these troubling times. The Pope also spent time remembering victims of the ongoing violence in Iraq.BENEDICT XVI Allow me to remember with emotion the victims of violence in Iraq in recent years. I think of Bishop Paul Faraj Rahho, Archbishop of Mosul, the Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, and many other priests and faithful of your patriarchal Church.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Iraq's Christian population has fallen from 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000 in 2008. One Iraqi bishop says that the exodus of Christians from the country has been an alarming and saddening development.Mons. Shlemon Warduni
Auxilary Bishop of Babylon
Iraq is a country with a very rich and very ancient culture. People really respect others and themselves. When we see people having to beg like this, become refugees, or emigrate to countries where they are not really respected, this hurts us very deeply in our hearts.
The Pope also had a message for Iraqi Christians who have left their homeland: don't forget your religious and cultural heritage when you're abroad. He called on them to maintain ties with the Patriarchate, to maintain their identity and pass it on to their children.
The Pope also called on Chaldeans to play a moderating role in the new Iraqi society, and to improve relations with the Muslim majority in the country.