Monday, November 22, 2010

"we ask that the martyrdom of our people be officially recognized..."

There are many ways we can show our solidarity with the Church throughout the Middle East, especially the Church in Iraq. One is to contribute money through any variety of agencies. My agency of choice, one I have supported for quite a few years, is the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association, which is a papal agency established to provide humanitarian aid and pastoral support to churches throughout the Middle East. There is also a recent initiative underway, instigated by Maria Teresa Landi, to send letters of support to Christians in Iraq telling them that you stand with them and, to the best of your ability, are standing for them as they continue to be martyred and persecuted.

The Holy Father's representative at the United Nations last week offered his diplomatic pouch (i.e., his ability to directly mail letters to the Papal Nunciature in Iraq) to deliver these letters. The established deadline has passed, but I would be surprised if letters sent now would be left undelivered. So, you can address your emails to Christian families to His Beatitude Emmanuel Delli, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad and email them to

Another way of supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ, probably the most neglected, but the one that will ultimately prove most efficacious, is by fasting and praying on their behalf. To this end, tomorrow, 23 November, many people are praying the rosary for the Christians of Iraq, the Sorrowful Mysteries, please join us for this important initiative, invoking Our Lady of Perpetual Help, who is highly venerated among the Christians of the Middle East.

There is now under way a formal initiative to have the Iraqi martyrs formally declared saints by the Catholic Church. The petition declares that "[d]espite this barbaric act, we, as Arab Christians, want to reaffirm our joy and our desire to live out our Christian faith in the same land where Christ died and rose again for our salvation, and where his apostles told the good news to our ancestors.

"The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity. We have lived here since Pentecost, when the Spirit inspired our forefathers who expressed their faith through diversity as Greek Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Copts, Maronites, Armenians, Latins, Lutherans and Anglicans – all of whom confess on[e] holy, catholic and apostolic church.

"In the tradition of the early Church, we ask that those who died as martyrs be honoured as saints. We call for the canonisation of the following fallen brothers:

"Fr. Thair Sad-alla Abd-al and Fr. Waseem Sabeeh Al-kas Butros and their companions, who were murdered on October 31 by Islamist terrorists. Others mentioned are the Chaldean Sisters Fawzeiyah and Margaret Naoum, killed March 26, 2007; the Chaldean priest Fr. Raghid Aziz Ganni and sub-deacons Yousef Daoud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Issam Bidawid, killed June 3, 2007 in Mosul; Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj of Mosul, found dead March 13, 2008." I would respectfully add Bishop Luigi Padovese and Fr. Andrea Santoro to this list of Middle Eastern martyrs deserving official canonization.

The petition concludes: "If, as Tertullian said, 'The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,' then we ask that the martyrdom of our people be officially recognised so that we may take root in the land.

"For this reason, we sign this petition calling for all the Christian martyrs of Iraq to be canonised, so that the example of their life and sacrifice be an inspiration to all of us, Arab and international Christians, who are living in the Middle East."

Indeed, it may well be the blood of these martyrs that insures the survival and even the future flourishing of the Church in Iraq. You can add your name to the petition by visiting the Christian Martyrs of Iraq and signing the petition.

I owe a deep diaconal bow to my brother deacon, Greg Kandra, who blogs over on The Deacon's Bench, for bringing this formal initiative to my attention. As we say in Rome Santo Subito!

All holy men and women, pray for us

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