ORP Pilgrimage to Iraq in December 2013

From December 12 to 19, 2013, Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi’s CEO and Vice-President Monsignor Liberio Andreatta led  a pilgrimage to Iraq in the footsteps of Abraham, with a stop in Ur.

A pilgrimage that was planned in 1999 was unaccomplished because of the war in the region at that time. Three meaningful objects were brought to Iraq: a statue of John Paul II, one reliquary realized with a fragment of the garment that the future saint wore the day of the attack on him in Saint Peter’s Square, and an icon painted by two artists from Bari, Iraq.  Pope Francis has recently asked for prayers for this tormented land.

The journey

The ORP group of pilgrims arrived in Basra on December 13th and were received very warmly by the local authorities of the city, in particular by the Governor of Thi Qar. In the afternoon Holy Mass was celebrated by Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, Bishop Shlemon Warduni, in the church of Saint Ephraem crowded with children who greeted the pilgrims with songs and celebrations. On Friday evening, the group arrived in Nasiriya. On Saturday the day unfolded with visit to the Ziqqurat, where a ceremony was held in the presence of the highest members of  the Iraqi State in the house of Abraham.

Sunday was characterized by a visit to the marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates. On Monday, the delegation went to Najaf, visiting the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel and the shrine of Imam Ali. At the end the group reached Babylon and met with local authorities.

On Tuesday the gifts blessed by Pope Francis were offered and the event concluded with the Holy Mass in Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph. The gifts were left in different cathedrals in Baghdad: the statue of John Paul II to the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral; the reliquary containing the relics of John Paul II to the Cathedral Siro-Cattolica; the processional icon donated to the Armenian Cathedral; and finally a lamp of peace given to the Latin Cathedral.

The prophetic gesture in Iraq and in the world

ORP’s prophetic gesture tradition started in 1991 by Monsignor Andreatta. The prophetic gesture is a symbolic gesture. It is called "prophetic" because it recalls the biblical signs, the signs that God has given for the salvation of mankind. Monsignor Andreatta said that the objects, blessed by Pope Francis were brought to Iraq as a gift to the "men of good will" of that land torn apart by so many years of war, suffering and pain.

Monsignor Andreatta guided the pilgrimage to the land of Abraham in harmony with the words Pope Francis spoke at the end of the General Audience of October 30, 2013: "I invite you to pray for the beloved Iraqi nation unfortunately affected daily by tragic episodes of violence, as you search for the path of reconciliation, of peace, unity and stability."

The "ORP prophetic gestures,” have the goal to reach special destinations on our planet, to bring the message of the Gospel to locations devastated by war and human loss or simply to engage a pilgrimage in a very remote area of the world as pilgrims of Christ , bringing outer and inner signs of our faith there.

Monsignor Andreatta has been leading the ORP prophetic gesture all over the world since 1991:

1991: "The Candle of Peace to Jerusalem" at the end of the Intifāda in Israel

1992: "The Virgin of Lourdes in Beirut" to the Sanctuary of Harissa, for the spiritual and material reconstruction of Lebanon, at the end of the civil war

1993: "Let's Save the Beatitudes" project for the protection of Christian sites in Galilee, around Lake Tiberias

1994: "The Lamp of Peace" in Nazareth, on the occasion of the International Year of the Family

1995: "The Lamp of Peace" in the Cathedral in Sarajevo at the end of the war in Yugoslavia

1996: "The Candlestick of Faith and Peace" in the Upper Room in Jerusalem

1997/98: "Pilgrimage to Hebron" after the massacre at the tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron

In 1999, a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Abraham in Iraq, was planned to prepare the journey which the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II would have made in 2000, but was not realized because of the conflict. In 2000, the Pope made only a virtual pilgrimage of the spiritual places of Abraham "the father of all believers."

2001: “The Jubilee Cross to the North Pole,” Go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth

2002:  "The Challenge You Can" in Palestine and Israel for the dialog between the two peoples

2003: “The Jubilee Cross to the South Pole,” Go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth

2003: "The Cross of the Poles on Monte Bianco" climbing the roof of Europe, laying of the Processional Cross and celebration of Holy Mass, to celebrate the Christian roots of Europe

2004: "The Cross of the Jubilee on K2” laying of the Cross and Holy Mass Celebration on one of the highest peaks in the world

The tradition of prophetic gestures was interrupted in 2005 for organizational reasons. The pilgrimage this past December to Iraq led by Monsignor Andreatta revives the tradition of ORP’s prophetic gesture.

Pope Francis and Monsignor Andreatta bless the relics that were delivered to the people of Iraq.