"Let the Iraqis kill each other, but let the occupying power get out, because they are not killing each other because they are Sunni or Shiite, but because they are with the Americans or against the Americans," said Bishop Ibrahim N Ibrahim of the Chaldean Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle, based in Southfield, Michigan, according to a Catholic News report.
He was speaking at a Mass, which drew close to 1,000 people, to remember the recently slain Chaldean Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni and the three subdeacons who were killed with him in Iraq, as well as to pray for all those who have died in the fighting in Iraq, including US troops, and for the safety of Iraq's remaining Christians.
Bishop Ibrahim said the situation of Christians in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, "is very, very bad," with Islamic terrorists threatening that they must convert to Islam or pay a special tax as protection money.
Even if they choose to leave, they are being threatened to leave any unmarried daughters behind so they can be taken as wives by Muslims and forced to convert to Islam, the bishop said.
But Bishop Ibrahim said he does not believe the Muslims killing and threatening Christians are from either of Iraq's two Muslim groupings - Shiites or Sunnis - but rather al-Qaida terrorists from outside Iraq.
The bishop spoke in Arabic at the Mass, but later provided an English translation of his major points.
"For a Christian to be killed in the Middle East is nothing new - it often happened in the second, third and fourth centuries that Christians were martyred for their faith - but for Christians to be killed in the 21st century, when the world's major superpower has 150,000 troops in that country, is a terrible thing," he said.
"Why are they there if they cannot defend human life and human rights?"
Bishop Ibrahim said US troops should at least withdraw from the cities, and he believes the warring factions would eventually reach some sort of power-sharing arrangement.
The current situation puts Christians in the hazardous position of being perceived as being allied with the foreign occupiers, but the Americans provide no special protection for them, the bishop continued.
"We do not have weapons, we do not have a militia, and nobody is supporting us," he said.
And even with some of the additional troops from the planned surge in US forces already in place, there is no security in Baghdad, he noted.
"Things are worse and worse and worse every single day, even for the Americans. The best thing is to withdraw, and then let the brothers attack each other," Bishop Ibrahim said.
'Let Iraqis kill each other', Catholic bishop says, calling for U.S. withdrawal (Catholic Online, 27/6/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Who Are Christians of Iraq ?
A Final Appeal: Save Christian Iraq (www.chiesa)
Pope deplores "senseless killing" of Iraqi clerics (CathNews, 5/6/07)
Iraq Christians taxed for their religion (CathNews, 20/3/07)
'Big problems'' for Iraqi Christians, Pontifical agency warns (CathNews, 2/3/07)
Pax Christi welcomes British plan to withdraw Iraq troops (CathNews, 23/2/07)
Non-violence a "way of being", Benedict says (CathNews, 19/2/07)
Indian Catholics mark Gandhi non-violence centenary (CathNews, 6/2/07)
Pax Christi raps profiteers in Palestinian occupation (CathNews, 12/7/06)
More young Christian women abducted, raped in Iraq (CathNews, 12/10/06)
Official highlights bleak outlook for Iraq (CathNews, 27/2/06)
Bishops see US 'at a crossroads in Iraq' (CathNews 16/1/06)
British cardinal prays for Iraq peacemaker hostages (CathNews 13/12/05)
Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion (CathNews 8/11/05)
Pax Christi stands firm on nuclear weapons (CathNews, 19/7/05)
Pax Christi Australia call for end to Falluja violence (CathNews 19/11/04)
Five churches bombed in Baghdad (CathNews, 18/10/04)
Pax Christi call for US to act as "honest broker" (CathNews 31/5/04)
Pope says Iraq war threatens humanity (CathNews, 24/3/03)
Vatican reasserts opposition to war in Iraq (CathNews, 4/10/02)