Long Knives host Vatican's representative
October 28, 2008
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The Long Knife Brigade hosted the pope's representative to Iraq and Jordan along with several local business leaders and sheiks at the Ziggurat of Ur Oct. 23.
Catholic Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, the apostolic nuncio for Iraq's Catholics, met with local business, religious and military leaders near the home of the Old Testament's Abraham.
However, the archbishop was in for a pleasant surprise himself as Col. Philip Battaglia's linguist and interpreter is a native Chaldean Catholic from Baghdad.
"The archbishop was happy to see me and the other Catholics," said Martin Antwan, the commander's interpreter. "There are so few of us Chaldean Catholics, he was very happy to see us."
Antwan explained that he moved his family to Michigan following Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He was not the only Christian to do so, as only a handful of Christian families remain in Iraq's southern region, according to the linguist. He also plans to return to his family in Michigan and working in his church's choir after his time helping rebuild his home country is complete.
"I was blessed by just being able to shake his hand," Antwan said about being one of the few Chaldean Catholics who met the archbishop there. "I could feel this guy's power. I was very happy to meet him. I didn't have a chance to talk to him very long. I presented myself and told him that I work for the 4th BCT commander, then the colonel came in and started speaking to him in Italian."
Antwan also speaks Spanish and was able to keep up with the bulk of the conversation before the military and religious leaders switched to speaking English.
Much like his combining multiple languages into one conversation, the papal representative brought Christians, Mandeans and Muslims together for the event.
"I believe that it is a great achievement to be able to put together such an impressive mix of communities and Iraqi personalities from politicians to sheiks and military personnel," said Dr. Anna Prouse, the Dhi Qar Provincial Reconstruction Team leader who hails from Italy. "I was especially impressed to find the provincial representatives of Ayatollah Sistani accept my invitation to meet with (Chullikat)."
The local Iraqi media from Nasiriyah also heavily covered the event.
"I was happy to see Arabic media thrilled to capture the moment," Prouse added. "Everyone in that room realized what a historic moment that was and everyone was thankful for having had the opportunity of being there.
"And all this right by the world famous Ziggurat of Ur," she continued. "Abraham would have been proud of all of us here today!"