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Dublin Mass marks solidarity with Iraqi Christians

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 August, 2014

Mass for persecuted ChristiansOver €8,000 was raised for Aid to the Church in Need’s work for persecuted Christians in the Middle East at a Mass in the Carmelite church on Dublin’s Clarendon Street on Monday evening.

In his homily, Fr Robert McCabe told the congregation that the Mass provided a structure of solidarity for Christians in Ireland with those deprived of religious freedom around the globe.

“Over the past number of weeks I’ve seen images on television and like many of you here this evening I’ve been asking what can I do to connect with the pain with these innocent and vulnerable people,” he said.

“Let’s appreciate the fact that we can gather safely in prayer this evening and pray that civil, religious and military leaders will work to provide safe lodgings, holy rest and peace at the last for our brothers and sisters who suffer this night, this month, this year,” he said.

He called on the Catholic faithful in Ireland to walk to Mass on Sunday 31 August as a gesture of solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Referring to the plight of over one million Christians displaced in Syria and Iraq, Fr McCabe told those assembled in the city centre church that they had “a duty towards others who are suffering in a culture of death.”

He said he hoped that this Walk to Mass would sow the seeds of concern, action and generosity in the hearts of Irish men and women as they urge their elected representatives to deepen their action and generosity on behalf of Iraq’s persecuted on the world stage.

“We gather this evening in solidarity with Christian communities and their friends who in recent weeks have seen the darnel of religious extremism choke the beauty of friendship and community in different parts of Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

Fr Robert McCabe and Rhona McConnell from Aid to the Church in Need at a Mass in support of Christians in Iraq, at Clarendon street Church in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

Fr Robert McCabe and Rhona McConnell from Aid to the Church in Need at a Mass in support of Christians in Iraq, at Clarendon street Church in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

“We gather to mark our solidarity with others who have carried bread and wine taken from their fields to the altar since the second century.”

The Diocese of Meath priest said he was “very aware” of farmers who have had to leave their fields, children who have planted flowers in their gardens and village elders who have sat in peace and comfort under a tree in their village planted by one of their relations in past centuries.

“These people no longer have shelter from the heat of the sun, comfort to enjoy the beauty of their garden, the freshness of figs, grapes and fruit.”

“Farmers who ploughed the land with their children have left their ploughshares, tractors and pruning hooks behind and know that their crops will be harvested and used by different hands and feet.”

Referring to the co-existence of religious communities in the lands of Abraham since the message of Christ replaced the Zoroastrian faith of the Yazidis, Fr McCabe said there was another net which is being used today to promote violence in the region and recruit extremists.

“Might we take the hashtag #PrayForPeace to our hearts in the coming days?” he suggested.

Noting that Iraqi society was one which has deep reverence for the elders, the priest asked those attending the Mass to imagine the trauma of grandparents and their friends getting up and moving from their village?”

“Others might have decided that they wish to stay and die near the graves of their ancestors,” he suggested.

“So many different generations are affected and traumatised by what is happening. Cardinal Filoni, representing Pope Francis in the past few days, described meeting elderly Yazidis who were weeping because they saw no future for themselves in the their homeland. Their question was “what sin have we committed to be slaughtered in this way?”

Neighbours of different faiths who helped build each other’s houses, support each other at business had all been scattered.

He explained that the population of Dohuk province had doubled because of displaced people and they are in dire need of additional supplies of the essentials for daily life.

Fr Robert McCabe, Paddy Pender & Fr Bryan Shortall OFM Cap.

Fr Robert McCabe, Paddy Pender & Fr Bryan Shortall OFM Cap.

The priest, who was joined by over 12 other clergy in celebrating the Mass, urged Christians in Ireland to “get moving” and “get speaking” and take the hashtag #PrayForPeace to their hearts in the coming days.

Among the hundreds of people at the Mass, was 22 year old Ruth Emmanuel, from Trinidad who is studying at the Royal College of Surgeons.

“I came because I feel that the world needs as much prayer as it can get. How did we get to this situation? I can come to church freely but these people have no freedom. We need this ‘togetherness’ to show solidarity,” she said.

UCD economist, Professor Ray Kinsella, explained that he organised the Mass as a gesture of solidarity with those Christians enduring “terrible persecution”.

“We hope to bring a message of hope and love to these people,” he said.

The congregation also included Independent TD, Peter Matthews, Mercy nun, Sr Consilio, who works on behalf of those with addictions, Independent Senator, Rónán Mullen, as well as Michael Kelly, Editor of the Irish Catholic and Sr Margaret, a Columban Sister who have worked on the ground in countries like Pakistan where Christians have few rights.

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