Iraq's Christians remembered




“Christians must be allowed to remain where they were born”, celebrating Mass in St Peter’s Basilica for the victims of persecution in Iraq Thursday evening, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches called on Iraqi authorities and civil society to pursue peace and reconciliation.

The liturgy was celebrated at the initiative of the Procurator of the Syrian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Youssef Younan III, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, in suffrage of the 58 people who were killed in the 31 October terrorist attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, Baghdad.

Survivors from that terrible tragedy, who since November 11th have been receiving treatment in Rome’s Gemelli hospital, were also present Thursday. They were the physical testimony of the wounds that the Iraqi Christian community has suffered and continues to suffer, for the faith.

Speaking to them Cardinal Sandri spoke of the saving mystery of martyrdom."Our thoughts, hearts and prayers go to Iraq and many other parts of the world, where to this day loyalty to baptism is answered in blood, for He who loved us to the Cross."

"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful" - he said adding that no kind of cruelty can destroy a religion, that is based on the mystery of Christ's cross."The Church in fact does not diminish with persecution, rather it develops, and the Lord's field is enhanced by a more abundant harvest, when the grains of wheat which have fallen one by one, are reborn and multiply"

In the dramatic reality of an Iraq riven by conflict and persecution, Cardinal Sandri repeated the words of the Pope, in his Angelus of November 1 last, he prayed that "the sacrifice of these brothers and sisters can be the seed of peace and rebirth. " He then called on the many ambassadors present from different religious denominations, to petition their governments for concrete action, "to promote the peaceful coexistence of individuals and communities throughout the Middle East".

Christians, he said “must be able to remain where they were born to offer personally and through the works of the Church, without any discrimination, their unique contribution to charity at an educational and cultural level and in social assistance. They wish to contribute to the progress of their beloved country in generous openness towards Muslims and all their compatriots”.

Returning once again to the tragic evening of October 31 before the prayer for peace he said: “A cruel wind attempted to stifle their love of God, which animated them, and they faced it with the weapons of faith, hope and charity”. With flesh and blood they "have announced the death of Christ and proclaimed his resurrection until He comes again."

Listen to full report by Emer McCarthy

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