The Iraqi government ignored the history of Iraqi Jews during the visit of Pope Francis last week, marring an otherwise unprecedented visit and wasting an opportunity to highlight the Jewish part of Iraq’s history.
The Vatican hoped that Jews would be part of the events attended by Pope Francis in Iraq, with Vatican News even noting that the pope met “representatives of the three Abrahamic religions at Ur of the Chaldeans in Iraq and urges Christians, Muslims and Jews to journey along a path of peace under the stars of the promise God made to Abraham.” However, a public delegation of Jews was not able to attend the event.
Iraqi-born Edwin Shuker, who visits Baghdad regularly, expressed disappointment that the Iraqi government “wasted a historic opportunity to reconcile with its Jews by inviting them to attend the ceremony at Ur and use the occasion to recognize and correct the injustice committed against them by successive governments.”
The pope’s message was given and stood in contrast to the stance of the Iraqi government. “As the children of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with other believers and all persons of good will, we thank you for having given us Abraham,” the pope prayed on Saturday.
However, the Iraqi government officials ignored the history of the Iraqi Jewish community. This was the case at Ur and also during the pope’s subsequent trip to Mosul, where a Jewish community once thrived. At least half a dozen ancient synagogues have been uncovered in Mosul.
In comparison, the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq has tended to embrace the diversity of the country, including the Jewish history of the area.
The Vatican sought to include Jews not only in the prayer but also physically at the interfaith meetings. It appears that the Iraqi government stymied efforts for any Jews to travel to Iraq, according to a knowledgeable source. The pope has often called for interfaith unity and has sent Hanukkah greetings. He also wrote a book with Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka when he was Cardinal in Buenos Aires.
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Source: Jerusalem Post