BY Ian Dunn | August 15 2014 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

Children flee violence in northern Iraq

‘These are our own flesh and blood’

Bishop Gilbert, Pope Francis make impassioned pleas for help for Christians facing genocide in Iraq. BREAKING NEWS: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Bishops's Conference of Scotland, call for prayers for Iraq and the surrounding region at weekend Masses

Scotland’s hierarchy has joined Pope Francis in calling for Catholics to do everything possible to help the Christians of Northern Iraq who are facing genocide at the hands of the Islamic State and death in overcrowded refugee camps.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United Kingdom, wrote to Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland last week, urging Scotland’s bishops to follow the Holy Father’s example in encouraging the Church ‘to raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.’

In a special letter to his diocese, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen says the time has come to be more than ‘head-shaking spectators,’ and urges Catholics to pray for the Christians in Iraq, to contribute to charitable appeals to help them and to urge politicians to take action to end this tragedy.

Earlier this week Pope Francis issued his most impassioned plea yet for the world to halt the ‘slaughter’ of Christians and other religious minorities by the Islamic extremists in Iraq.

“The news coming from Iraq leaves us incredulous and appalled,” the Pope told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square last Sunday as he catalogued the brutal ‘violence of every kind’ that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and left women and children dead and dying. “All this seriously offends God and seriously offends humanity. You cannot bring hatred in the name of God. You cannot make war in the name of God!”

Growing tensions in Iraq exploded last week when Islamic extremist fighters took over Iraq’s largest Christian town Qaraqosh and surrounding areas, sending tens of thousands of panicked residents fleeing for their lives as atrocities such as beheadings and Christians being buried alive were reported. Qaraqosh lies between Mosul, the Islamic State group’s main hub in Iraq, and Erbil, the Kurdish region’s capital.

In his letter, Bishop Gilbert says Catholics have a duty to ‘help the Christians in northern Iraq threatened by the so-called Islamic State.’

“Throughout the Middle East, and not least in that area, there are many ancient Christian communities,” the bishop says. “They are the heirs to a long, rich, often painful history. They are the living bearers of traditions of liturgy, prayer and Christian life that are a precious part of the Church’s wealth. Because of the political turmoil of recent years, a majority have already emigrated.”

He adds that many of the last remaining Christians in northern Iraq had now had to flee their homes ‘rather than suffer violence against their faith and freedom.’ “These are our own flesh and blood both in humanity and faith,” the bishop says. “These are disciples caught in a storm of history, as in the Gospel. They deserve our support and we should give it.”

Given the suffering of the Iraqi Christians, the bishop asks three things of his flock, that they pray ‘personally and publicly for these people,’ that they ‘contribute to a special collection for them’ that will be forwarded to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need and that they contact ‘representatives in the Westminster Parliament to ask the UK Government to do whatever may be possible to put an end to this tragedy.’

Archbishop Tartaglia spoke of his concerns during a remembrance Mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral on Sunday marking the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the First World War.

“Men have not yet fully learned the lessons of the Great War,” the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said. “There are wars and conflicts raging even now as we gather at Mass: in eastern Ukraine, in Gaza, and in Syria and Iraq where also many Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted and persecuted.”



—Read the full version of this story in August 15 edition of the SCO in parishes from Friday.







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