Cardinal Vincent Nichols has visited Erbil, in Iraq and praised the city’s Chaldean community for the “admirable and effective” welcome given to thousands of people forced to flee their homes by ISIS terrorists.
The Archbishop of Westminster, who visited the capital of Kurdistan on a two-day trip to Iraq, gave a short homily at a Mass on Sunday evening, the ‘First Sunday’ in the Chaldean calendar, in the Cathedral of St Joseph. He was joined by Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in celebrating the Mass.
“I promise to tell your story when I get home and that the Catholic people of England and Wales will keep you all very much in their prayers,” Cardinal Nichols said.
“We know that so much more needs to be done so that you can return to your homes and lands. We pray for your perseverance and patience in these very difficult circumstances.”
Writing for ITV.com, Cardinal Nichols said he had been informed that the cathedral in Mosul “is being desecrated and vandalised and provocatively turned into a mosque” by ISIS terrorists. He also urged that more aid be sent to help people being persecuted in the Middle East.
“The aid agencies’ efforts are considerable and helpful in desperate circumstances. More is needed. For this to happen, territories have to be liberated, a new rule of law established and a shattered social network rebuilt,” he said.
During Mass on Sunday, Cardinal Nichols thanked the Chaldean Community in Erbil for the admirable and effective welcome they had given, under the leadership of their Archbishop, to so many thousands of displaced people.
The Cardinal then reflected on the character of St Thomas who, in his suffering and sorrow, had stayed away from the community of the disciples. Only when he returned did he receive the good news of the resurrection of the Lord.
“Never stay away from the community of the Church because of sadness, or anger, or distress. Always stay within the embrace of the community because there, together, you will find the love and support which so reflects the love of the Lord. There you are able to say ‘my Lord and my God’,” Cardinal Nichols added.
Finally, the Cardinal repeated the Lord’s own greeting, “Peace be with you”.
“This greeting does not mean that our lives will be free from trouble,” he said.
“The Lord does not promise that to us. Rather this greeting is a prayer that all the blessings of God will be given to you. And this is my greeting to you all. Please pray for us as we will most certainly pray for you.”