BAGHDAD - The worshippers were searched at the door and snipers stood guard on the roof, but yesterday's Mass was a joyful one for more than 200 Iraqis who packed a church in eastern Baghdad to see the first Iraqi cardinal.
Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, celebrated the two-hour Mass three weeks after Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the top ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Delly presided over other services this weekend in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, spreading his message of unity and forgiveness among Iraq's Christians.
"We are of one family. Everyone should work for the progress of this country," he said during his sermon.
Delly, 80, has been outspoken about the need to protect Christians, who make up fewer than 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.
Many people who filled the pews at the elegant brick Church of the Virgin Mary said they were taking advantage of a lull in violence to attend services and to congratulate Delly. The imam of a nearby Shiite mosque shook hands with him in the church's courtyard after the service.