Patriarch Sako celebrates Catholic University graduates

"This university is a wonderful forum for culture, education and dialogue and for this reason it must be supported," insisted the Chaldean Patriarch, Card. Louis Raphael Sako, during the solemn graduation ceremony of the first group of young people to have completed their studies at the Catholic University of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

The university first opened its doors at the end of 2015, when much of Iraq was under threat from the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis). The extremists had chosen Mosul as their stronghold a few dozen kilometers from the border with the autonomous region. "On my own behalf and on behalf of the Chaldean Church," the primate continued, "I wish to express my warmest congratulations to the diocese of Erbil, its archbishop, the city of Ankawa, the university faculty staff and the first group of graduates." 

The ceremony, enriched by musical entertainment, was held on Thursday in the gardens of the university, in Ankawa. The event was attended by numerous religious and civil personalities, intellectuals, politicians, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East Mar Awa III, the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, bishops, nuns, priests and relatives of the students. 

The son of the president of the Kurdish autonomous region Idris Barzani, some ministers and academics, as well as the founder of the university Monsignor Bashar Warda also spoke during the evening. Those present were able to hear, thanks to two films made earlier and broadcast during the ceremony, the testimonies of university students, about their dreams and aspirations for the future. 

"The Catholic Church - continued Card. Sako - has distinguished itself since the first centuries of its founding for its cultural and social institutions: schools, universities, charities for the poor, hospitals and charitable clinics." The Catholic university as well as the Maryamana Hospital, also in Erbil, are among many "vital projects" that strengthen the role and presence of the Church in Iraqi society. 

There has also been the opening of a center for autism in Kirkuk, the laying of the foundation stone of the Thalassima Center and a new facility for Alzheimer's care is almost complete in Sulaymaniyah. These social, cultural, educational and health initiatives "prepare a future of coexistence" in Iraq, noted the cardinal, and offer opportunities for shared knowledge, the exchange of experiences, and lays the groundwork for future challenges. 

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