Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2014 Column Father De Celles

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq continue to suffer bloody persecution at the hands of the Islamist terrorist army that calls itself the “Islamic State,” or “IS” (formerly  the “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,” or “ISIS”). At last the governments of the west are starting to take note, and we finally saw our president begin last week to take some military action to defend “minorities” in Iraq. But we cannot let up in our prayers and other efforts to protect our persecuted brethren.


Excerpt from Pope Francis’ Angelus address, Sunday August 10.


Dear brothers and sisters,

          The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; people massacred; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!

          I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the [rule of] law. In order better to ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them, I have named [Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples] Cardinal Fernando Filoni as my Personal Envoy in Iraq, who shall depart from Rome tomorrow [Monday].

          In Gaza, also: after a truce, war has once again resumed – a war that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Let us pray together the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Grant us peace, O Lord, in our days, and render us artificers justice and peace.


Excerpt from an article in The Tablet (International Catholic News Weekly)

Headline: “Iraqi Patriarch calls for more airstrikes as displaced minorities face threat of humanitarian crisis” (August 11, 2014 by Liz Dodd)

The US must carry out airstrikes on Islamic State [IS] militants across northern Iraq and not confine its intervention to Erbil, the Baghdad-based Chaldean Patriarch has said. Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako also voiced concern that “death and sickness are grabbing the children and elderly people” among the thousands of displaced Iraqis seeking food, water and shelter in overcrowded cities.

          The patriarch urged US President Barack Obama to carry out airstrikes on militants in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, saying that the decision only to provide military assistance to Erbil, where 100,000 refugees have taken shelter, was “disappointing”.

          Three days of US air strikes on jihadists closing in on Erbil have enabled Kurdish forces to retake some positions held by IS. Meanwhile the US is reportedly considering evacuating refugees still trapped on Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis fled when the city of Qaraqosh, which was also home to a large Christian community, fell to IS last week. The US Government today confirmed it is arming Kurdish forces.

          The British Government, which has so far resisted calls for a military intervention, said today that the RAF would start dropping humanitarian aid supplies “imminently”.

          The Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, described the US airstrikes as “something that had to be done, otherwise [the IS] could not [be] stopped”. Speaking on Vatican Radio, he questioned why IS had been allowed to gain such a foothold. “Was it not a lack of intelligence? … And then: who gave to these [IS fighters] such sophisticated weapons?”

          Patriarch Sako warned of the “deplorable situation” facing Christians and Yazidis who had fled their homes and were now reduced to sleeping in the streets and public parks. As well as those who have fled to the city of Erbil, some 60,000 Christians have fled to the northern Iraqi cities of Dohuk and Kirkuk, the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, and as far as the capital, Baghdad, the patriarch told the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

          Mgr Nizar Semaan, chaplain to the Syrian Catholic Community in the UK, broke down on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme as he described the plight of those who had fled his home town, Qaraqosh. “Children, women, elderly people, young people are sitting on the street with no milk, nothing to drink, under the sun. Women are going to find something to eat for children, elderly people are without medicine. What kind of humanity is this?”

          He urged the international community: “If you are not able to protect us, welcome us. Open your door for us. We cannot stay and die there.”

          The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, said the situation in the city was disastrous. He said: “We are struggling. It’s beyond our capacity. We don’t have enough space: schools, churches and homes are open. It’s a disaster.”

          The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reiterated the call he made on Friday for the UK to offer asylum to those fleeing IS.

          The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, agreed that those refugees who wanted to travel “should be welcomed”, but emphasised their right to stay in their home country.

          “The Christian presence in Iraq is hugely important. When Christians move out, humanity is closer to total breakdown. I think the most important thing is to create safety in their own country,” he said.

          The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has announced it has launched an appeal for displaced Christians in northern Iraq.


GOOD NEWS. Amidst all the bad news that seems to surround us today, here’s a little bit of good news for you. On August 8 long-time parishioners Bob and Bev Ward celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Years ago (16?) my predecessor, Fr. Gould, asked Bob and Bev to take over the CCD program and they’ve been teaching the faith at St. Raymond’s ever since. Now they run the RCIA as well as two weekly Bible Studies. And they continue to work with the Diocesan Conference for the Engaged, helping engaged couples prepare for marriage. But more than their “official” teaching they teach us by the wonderful example of Christian living they show us, especially the superlative example of their love for each other, and how they share that love with anyone who comes into their lives. We are so blessed to have them in our parish. Congratulations Bob and Bev on 50 years of showing the world what Christian marriage and love are all about. May the Lord Jesus shower you with His graces, may His Mother Mary keep you in her tender care, and may St. Raymond guide you in all do for his parish.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles