The Prince of Wales has told Iraqi Christians that they “are quite literally following in the footsteps of the Holy Family” at a Mass organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
At the Mass in the Holy Family Church in Acton, west London, in which the Lord’s Prayer was said in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, the prince spoke about his closeness to the persecuted Christians saying: “As Christmas approaches my heart goes out to all Christians who are being persecuted on account of their faith.
“Throughout my life I have appealed for greater understanding between people of faith, for greater tolerance and for harmony between the great religions of the world.
“For me, it is utterly inconceivable that a person of one faith could find it in themselves to persecute a person of another faith. Surely to do so brings nothing but dishonour on the faith of the persecutor?”
Prince Charles met members of Iraqi Chaldean Christianity community, some of them with first-hand experience of persecution in their homeland. The Chaldean choir sang to the prince, and talks were given by Fr Nadheer Dako, parish priest of the Chaldean Catholic mission in London, and Archbishop Habib Bacha of Basra, who read a letter from Patriarch Louis Sako, calling for a safe haven for minorities in northern Iraq. John Pontifex, ACN’s head of press, also spoke about his recent experience in Iraq.
The prince said: “Like so many of you, I have been deeply distressed by the horrific scenes of violence and persecution coming out of your beloved Iraq. It seems to me that all faiths to some extent shine a light on the divine image in every human life. If that is so, then surely to destroy another human being is to desecrate the image of the Divine, and to do so in the name of faith is nothing less than a blasphemy.”
He continued: “As we see these truly dreadful images of executions and beheadings transmitted around the world via the internet, I cannot help but feel that we are in serious danger in this so-called modern age of descending into the dark ages of public executions.
“At this most agonising of times we have to struggle not to forget that Our Lord called upon us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute. But by being with you this Christmas time I wanted to assure you of my constant thoughts and sympathy. As you know, the story of the Nativity ends with the Holy Family fleeing for refuge from persecution. You and your families are quite literally following in the footsteps of the Holy Family.”
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