Eastern Church: November 2010 Archives

Christian martyrs of Iraq?

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Christians martyrs appeal.jpgThere is a movement afoot to investigate the sanctity of those Christians killed in Iraq just for being Christian, perhaps leading to having these Christians being canonized saints. Interesting question...

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," Tertullian said. Are these women and men true seeds of Christianity in the 21st century?

Thumbnail image for Fraternity CL Logo.JPGCommunion and Liberation follows the call of the Italian bishops to pray Sunday, November 21 for the Christians of Iraq, "who are suffering the tremendous trial of blood witness to the faith" (Final communiqué of the Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, November 11, 2010).

The Movement invites all its members to participate in Mass according to the intentions of Benedict XVI, who the day after the grave attack in the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Baghdad that left dozens dead and wounded, said, "I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more savage because it struck defenseless people gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation. I also express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, struck once again, and encourage the pastors and faithful to be strong and steady in hope. In the face of the heinous episodes of violence that continue tearing the populations of the Middle East to pieces, I renew my grieved call for peace: it is the gift of God, but also the result of the efforts of people of good will, of national and international institutions. May everyone join their strengths to put an end to all violence! (Comments after the Angelus, November 1, 2010).

Addressing all members of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón said that "participation in Sunday Mass according to the intentions of the Pope and the bishops is a gesture of real communion and charity because we feel that the Christians of Iraq are our friends, even if we do not know them directly."

As Fr. Giussani said, "If the sacrifice is accepting the circumstances of life, as they happen, because they make us correspondent, participants in the death of Christ, then sacrifice becomes the keystone of all life [...] but also the keystone for understanding the history of man. The entire history of man depends on that man dead on the cross, and I can influence the history of man - I can influence the people who live in Japan now, the people in danger at sea now; I can intervene to help the pain of the women who lose their children now, in this moment - if I accept the sacrifice that this moment imposes." (L. Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way? Book 3: Charity, McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 74-75.)

Iraqi Christians Pray Rosary.jpg
For this reason, added Carrón, "if a gesture of prayer can influence the change of people in Japan, it can also change something in Iraq. May the sacrifice we make for the Christians of Iraq and Sunday's prayer be a gesture with which we invoke, implore from God protection for them."

The Communion & Liberation Press Office
Milan, Italy
November 18, 2010
St Vladimir's relics detail.jpgThe privilege of having the relics of one's patron coming to your home is a singular experience. Friends who are seminarians at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary welcomed their patron's relics in solemn ceremony this past weekend.

An 11th century saint, Saint Vladimir is known in the Orthodox Church as the Holy and Great Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles who first experienced a dramatic conversion to Christ. He is credited with bringing Christianity to various places in Russia.

Saint Vladimir's feast is commemorated in both the Orthodox and Latin Churches on July 15.

The press release of the veneration is here with yet another here.

in procession with St Vladimir's relics.jpg

Thanks to Deacon Dustin Lyon for the photos.

Emmanuel III Delly.jpgAs a way of showing solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq who faced such horrible circumstances because of their faith Jesus Christ, I am extendiing an invitation to all of us: writing letter(s) of fraternal solidarity with our brothers and sisters through the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, His Beatitude, Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly. He's the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Iraq.

An initiative of solidarity is proposed by members of Communion and Liberation

Abp Chullikatt.jpg

Our many friends in the lay Catholic movement, Communion and Liberation have also moved by the plight of Iraqi Christians has organized a gesture of solidarity with the Iraqi Christians in the form of a letter campaign. One of our friends spoke with the Apostolic Nuncio (the Pope's ambassador) at the UN, Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt who said he'd be very happy for our initiative and offered his diplomatic pouch (direct mail) to reach the Nunciature in Iraq.

So, if you are inclined to write an email in solidarity, you may send it to tonuncio@gmail.com and the email will be printed and hand-delivered to Archbishop Chullikatt on Tuesday, November 16.

Messages ought to be addressed to His Beatitude, Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

candle memorial Syrian Church.JPGThe pain and suffering endured but not consumed by some people is an extraordinary testimony to Grace. The AP news stories about the Mass prayed in the church assaulted by the slayings of Syrian Christians on October 31 brings tears to my eyes especially when I read that the walls retained the blood and flesh of the victims. No doubt poignant relics of the witnesses of humanity and Christ. I bet you no one entered Our Lady of Salvation Church expecting to lay down their life in such a dramatic manner.

Our Lady of Salvation Church has become the School of the Cross and Resurrection in which new life is being formed and born. The Christian response is exactly what Jesus taught his followers: pray for your enemies and those persecute you for love of Me. The priest who celebrated the Divine Liturgy the other day told his congregants that "We will perform a strange kind of prayer because Christ tells us: 'Love your enemies.'"  Father Mukhlis also said that "We will pray for those who assaulted our church and shed the blood of our martyrs."

Father Mukhlis recalled for his people that one of the murdered priests, Father Thair, said to his attackers: "Kill me, not the families and children."

Have the Syrian Catholics become 21st century icons of love? How have we changed since hearing of these brutal deaths? What does Christ want us to learn from these events?
Striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit.
Lord, fill Your Church with the Spirit that gave Saint Josaphat the courage to lay down his life for his people. By his prayers may Your Spirit make us strong and willing to offer our lives for our brothers and sisters.
God, you are the martyrs' crown!St Josaphat of Poltosk.jpg
Hear the hymn we raise in gladness, 
Praising good Saint Josaphat,
Who in midst of earthly sadness
Followed Truth, and Way, and Life,
Braving trouble, scorn, and strife.

Josaphat, a preacher bold,
Was a bishop strong and fearless.
In his love for all his flock
And his ardor, he was peerless:
"That in Christ we one may be"
Was his earnest, heart-felt plea.
Strong defender of his Church,
Lover of the Eastern teaching,          
Faithful priest and leader true
Urged his people through his preaching,
And, by God's mysterious grace,
Took in heav'n a martyr's place.
God the Father, God the Son,
God the Spirit, hear our praises
With our hymns on this glad day;
 Which your Church in glory raises.
With Saint Josaphat, in song,

Echoing the ages long!

J. Michael Thompson
Copyright © 2009, World Library Publications


A friend sent me this letter of His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregory III addressing the killing and violence inflicted on the Syrian Christian community on October 31 (there's discrepancy in the letter). His Beatitude is known for straight-talking and this letter indicates that sensibility. Let's pray for peace in all of our hearts and minds as we pray for our enemies.

Patriarch Gregory III .JPG

Rabweh, 8 November 2010

Christian bloodbath in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance, Baghdad

The carnage which took place on Sunday, November 1, 2010 in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad was of an unprecedented cruelty and barbarity. It was an attack capable of undermining the good will of genuine bridge-builders between cultures, brave heroes of inter-religious dialogue, as well as the optimism of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.

I offer my sincere condolences and the assurance of my prayers and those of our Church to His Beatitude Patriarch Ignace-Joseph III (Younan), to His Eminence Cardinal Emmanuel III (Delly) and to all those who are broken-hearted at this crime.

We know that this criminal act is not the work of authentic Islam, and cannot be based on it. Despite that, we hold Muslims in Iraq and in all Arab countries to be responsible for Christian security, since they have power, and control the army and police force.

We urge Arab countries to study the reality of fundamentalist terrorism and the trends that feed on it. This is a global Islamic responsibility, because showing Islam under that guise is a disfigurement of authentic Islam. The real enemies of Islam and Muslims are neither "Islamophobia" nor "Christian Europe," but rather these fundamentalist organisations and trends.

They are also the enemies of Christianity and of every Christian and Muslim social and human value, whether Arab or not.

Christians are peaceable, patriotic, loyal, faithful to their homeland and countries, tolerant and naturally inclined to forgiveness. But they are not passive, cowardly, timid, any more than they are inclined to be humiliated. They are not sheep, designed to be slaughtered by fundamentalists. Christians are builders of values, nations and cultures, including Islamic culture itself.

If Muslims do nothing to safeguard this creative strain represented by Arab Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, the prosperity and drive of Islamic culture will be in danger of collapse, and Muslims will then be their own worst enemies, enemies of their faith and of their countries.

Dear Muslim and Christian Arab brothers, let us adopt a unifying way of talking and act together to build a better future for all our children and compatriots!

Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

The brutality of the killings of Christians in Iraq just over a week ago can't be forgotten. Someone wisely videotaped the bloodbath seen here. The images are horrific and rather hard to view but they do provoke one to think and pray about these facts.

There's no doubt that Christians in Iraq are facing the significant trails of their lifetime. These are our brothers and sisters. Some call it a jihad against the Christian minority and others say this is an example of a more globalized efforts to squeeze out Christianity in the Middle East. The horrific attack is religiously motivated driving the Christians from the region, an ethnic cleansing. Multiple religious groups in Iraq create diversity, it creates democratic processes, no matter the size of the community.

The Islamists as a group is small, perhaps not more than 5% but they have money and are mobilized. But where is the outrage of the Islamic leaders of the reasonable sort speaking against these attacks? Barely is the media reportiing on last Sunday's events.

Vatican Radio reported that "The victims of Sunday's massacre in Our Lady of Salvation Church Baghdad were laid to rest Tuesday. A telegram from Pope Benedict to the leader of the Syro-Catholic Church in the Iraqi capital, Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, was read out to mourners during the funeral service. The Pope said 'deeply moved by the violent death of so many faithful and their priests, Tha'ir Saad and Boutros Wasim, I wish, during the sacred funeral rite, to share spiritually in this occasion and pray that these our brothers and sisters are welcomed by the mercy of Christ into the Father's House.for years this country has been suffering untold hardships and even Christians have become the subject of brutal attacks that, in total disregard of life - an inviolable gift from God - want to undermine confidence and peace. I renew my call that the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters may be the seed of peace and true rebirth, and that those who care about reconciliation, solidarity and fraternal coexistence, find the strength and motivation to do good.'"

Additionally, Asia News reported, "The so-called 'War Department' of the 'Islamic State of Iraq' (ISI) al-Qaeda in Iraq issued a statement on the Web to announce that the passing of the deadline of its 'ultimatum' to the Egyptian Coptic Church to release two Egyptian women, Camilia Cheh and Wafa Constantine, wives of Coptic priests, whom according to the terrorists are detained against their will in a convent after converting to Islam. Their conversion has been denied by all the Islamic religious authorities in Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood have harshly attacked the authors of the massacre in Baghdad. Al-Qaeda, however, confirms that all Christians and their churches have become "legitimate targets" of the terrorist group and are therefore are in danger. The message issued today by the Iraqi cell of al-Qaeda also makes explicit reference to the Vatican."

Further, "While confirming its desire to attack the Christians, the terrorists say they want to give one more chance to the Catholics of the Church of Rome. They claim that 'the War Office of the Islamic State of Iraq' announced that starting today all the churches and Christian organizations and their leaders are a legitimate target for mujahedeen. These politicians and their bosses in the Vatican should know that the sword will not fall on the heads of their followers if they proclaim their innocence, and distance themselves from what has been done by the Egyptian Church. Al-Qaeda calls on Catholics to 'send a clear signal to the mujahedeen of their effort to put pressure on the Egyptian Church in order to obtain the release of two women, their prisoners.'"

Martin Chulov of the Guardian in Britain, wrote "Resurgent al-Qaida threatens Christians in Iraq with 'destruction":  "Al-Qaida in Iraq has threatened more attacks on Iraq's Christians, claiming that they are legitimate targets who now face the 'doors of destruction.' The warning, published today on militant websites, came three days after gunmen from an al-Qaida front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, raided one of Baghdad's main cathedrals during Sunday mass. More than 50 people were killed and dozens were wounded when Iraqi forces stormed the church in an attempt to lift the four-hour siege. In its statement, ISI described the pope as 'the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican' and warned that Christians would be 'extirpated and dispersed' from Iraq. 'All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the muhajideen wherever they can reach them... We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood.'"

Since Sunday how could our hearts not be moved by the dirty killing of 58 and wounding of countless others in Our Lady of Salvation Church (a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad)? How could we not have heavy hearts and mournful spirits at the news of villainous actions toward others, especially those at prayer? Our brothers and sisters in the faith, among them 2 priests --who brought Christ to us-- were bruttally murdered by Muslim extremists.

We pray for the eternal rest of the dead, healing of the ill and forgiveness of the perpetrators. That's what the Lord would do, I am convinced. This is what we are asked to do by the Pope. Indeed, we pray for peace and re-birth in Christ.

Let's pray for Chaldean Cardinal and Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, the other bishops of Iraq with the priests, deacons, sub-deacons and laity.

The Holy Father has spoken out in the last days and he does so again. Read his remarks here.

Catholics in Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad were held hostage and some killed and wounded by a group of Al Qaeda militants. The siege tragically ended in death when Iraqi security forces raided the church in order to free the faithful being held inside.

During his All Saints Angelus address today in Rome, Pope Benedict said, "Last night, in a very serious attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, dozens of people were killed and wounded, including two priests and a group of faithful gathered for Sunday Mass."

Benedict continued, "I pray for the victims of this senseless violence, all the more ferocious as it affected defenseless civilians, this closeness to the martyred Christian community, targeted yet again by terrorists, and encouraged all pastors and faithful to be strong and firm in hope."

"Faced with the brutal violence that continues to tear the peoples of the Middle East apart," Pope Benedict ended the Angelus talk by saying: "I renew my appeal for peace: it is God's gift, but it is also the result of the efforts of men of good will, national and international institutions. We must all join forces to ensure an end to all violence!"

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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This page is a archive of entries in the Eastern Church category from November 2010.

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