Aug 142014

Diocese of Davenport asks priests to celebrate special Mass Aug. 17

By Catholic News Service

A day of prayer for peace in Iraq will be observed Aug. 17 in the Diocese of Davenport and in dioceses across the nation. Bishop Martin Amos also has granted permission for the use of the Mass for Persecuted Christians instead of the Sunday Mass for that weekend.

“We’re joining the universal Church in a day of intense prayer for Christians and other Iraqis who are being persecuted for their faith. We continually pray for people in the whole region,” Bishop Amos said.

Also that day the bishop will give the opening prayer at a 3 p.m. interfaith rally in downtown Davenport to focus attention on the plight of thousands of Central American children seeking refuge in the United States.

“There are difficulties, certainly, in our own country as well as in Central America, the Middle East and elsewhere,” the bishop said. “We have much to be mindful of.”

Another Iowa bishop made the initial request for a day of prayer on Aug. 17, Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese. As chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, he asked the nation’s Catholic bishops to invite the people of their dioceses to pray for peace in Iraq on that day.

He sent the bishops the text of a prayer written by Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad, who said Aug. 7 that the Christians were facing “a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide.”

In June the Islamic State, or ISIS, proclaimed the creation of a new “caliphate,” or state run by a religious leader, after thousands of militants seized control of large parts of northern and central Iraq and eastern Syria. A mass exodus of Christians from those regions of Iraq has occurred; they were told by militants to flee, convert to Islam or be killed.

Militants released videos on Facebook and other social media showing mass executions of Christians and other Iraqis. According to some estimates, as many as 1,500 people were killed in July.

In his request for prayers, Bishop Pates noted Pope Francis’ calls for peace in Iraq and his observation that “violence generates more violence; dialogue is the only path to peace.”

The Iowa bishop also urged Catholics to let their elected representatives know of their concern that humanitarian assistance reach Christians and other religious minorities who are suffering in Iraq, Syria and other countries. On Aug. 7 U.S. President Barack Obama authorized airdrops of humanitarian supplies to thousands of religious minorities in Iraq and limited airstrikes against the Islamic militants in Iraq.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the text of Patriarch Sako’s prayer:

“Lord, the plight of our country is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening. Therefore, we ask you Lord to spare our lives, and to grant us patience, and courage to continue our witness of Christian values with trust and hope. Lord, peace is the foundation of life; Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety, and with dignity and joy. Glory be to you forever.”

In a strongly worded July 25 letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Bishop Pates said that U.S. humanitarian assistance “was urgently needed to help these beleaguered people (of Iraq), especially Christians.”

He asked that the U.S. government “do all that it can to provide this critical assistance to those in desperate straits and to work with other governments in an effort to stop the violence.” Bishop Pates reminded Rice he had written to her a month earlier about “the escalating violence in Iraq that targets Christians and other religious communities.”

He asked that the U.S. government urge Iraqi political leaders to form an inclusive government representative of all ethnic and religious groups. Only in this way can the rule of law be restored and the common good of all be served, he said.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis condemned the actions of Islamic State militants in Iraq, saying that persecuting Christians and other minorities “seriously offends God and seriously offends humanity.”

“One cannot generate hatred in God’s name,” he said Aug. 10. “One cannot make war in God’s name!”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis asked tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to join him for a moment of silent prayer for peace in Iraq and for the tens of thousands of people forced from their homes in northeastern Iraq as fighters from the Islamic State tried to increase the territory under their control.

“The news from Iraq leaves us incredulous and appalled,” Pope Francis said. “Thousands of people, including many Christians, have been chased from their homes in a brutal way; children die of thirst and hunger during the flight; women are kidnapped; people are massacred; violence of every kind; destruction everywhere.”

At the Angelus, he also called on the international community and Iraq’s beleaguered government to “stop these crimes” and reestablish law and order. Pope Francis thanked “those who, with courage, are bringing aid to these brothers and sisters of ours” and told people he was sending Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his personal envoy to Iraq.

(Barb Arland-Fye contributed to this story.)

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