Christian endowment bans Christian Iraqis from accompanying the Pope to Israel

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, May 25, 2014

The Christian Endowment in Iraq says Iraqi Christians are not allowed to accompany Pope Francis in his current visit to Israel.

The endowment said many Christians had applied to visit Israel but their applications were turned down because it feared reprisals from Muslim militants in the country.

Iraqi Patriarch Louis Sako, who heads the Catholic Chaldean Church in Iraq, has traveled to Amman to meet the Pope but will not go to Israel, said Raad Kachachi, the head of the Christian Endowment in Iraq.

The Pope is on a tour of Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.

“Patriarch Sako is in Amman but he would not accompany the Pope in his visit to Jerusalem fearing the visit might lead to attacks by fundamentalists targeting churches and Christian places of worship.” said Kachachi.

He said conditions in the region were not stable and there were fears that the visit by the Patriarch or other Iraqi Christians to Jerusalem and Israel might be interpreted negatively, he said.

Kachachi said the government had received many applications from Iraqis to allow them to visit Jerusalem and meet the Pope there.

The government, he said, dispatched the applications to the endowment, which in its turn advised not to let Iraqi Christians visit Israel.

Travel to Israel is illegal and those visiting the Jewish state are liable for prosecution.