Ask President to Help Protect Iraqi Christians

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Follow Cardinal George's Lead

 BALTIMORE (November 15, 2010) — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) affirmed by acclamation during their annual Fall General Assembly a November 9 letter from Chicago Cardinal Francis George, OMI, USCCB president, to President Obama regarding the recent violence against Christians in Iraq. (See his complete remarks below.)

Cardinal George asks President to help Iraqi Christians- Action Catholics for the Common GoodCardinal Francis George
President of the USCCB

 “The October 31 attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad shocked and horrified the Catholic community and all people of goodwill,” said Cardinal George in remarks to the bishops.

“As you’ve read in the press over the past week, there are continuing attacks against innocent Iraqis, especially Christians. In the recent Synod on the Middle East, the bishops from Iraq spoke of the perilous situation facing Christians and other minorities in that country.”

Cardinal George said the attack touched all of the bishops very closely.
“Our brothers in the priesthood, Father Thaer Saad and Father Boutros Wassim, were slain as one celebrated mass and the other heard confessions,” he said. “Father Thaer prayed and asked a terrorist to spare the lives of his parishioners before he died. Father Raphael moved parishioners to a safer location in the Church and was grievously wounded. Their Patriarch, His Beatitude Ignace Joseph III Younan, who morns their murders and wounding, along with those of scores of innocent worshipers killed and injured, is no stranger. He was formerly a member of our Conference of Bishops before his consecration and enthronement as Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians last year.”
Cardinal George reiterated what he said in his letter, that having invaded Iraq, the U.S. has a moral obligation not to abandon Iraqis. For all these reasons, Cardinal George asked that bishops make his letter their own.
The full text of the letter can be found at:

Remarks of Cardinal George to the USCCB Fall General Assembly
November 15, 2010

Finally, if you will permit me, because we are ordained as bishops with a particular title but also for the care of all the Churches, it is not only the poor of our own country who cry out to us. We are not a national Church; we resist being transformed into a purely American denomination. I therefore cannot depart this position or leave you today without speaking of our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Ever since the capture of Baghdad, it has been clear to anyone of good will that, while Muslim groups might be in conflict with one another, it was uniquely the Christians who were without protection in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq. Now, at the end of last month, on the vigil of the feast of All Saints, in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of our Lady of Deliverance in the city of Baghdad, many dozens of Catholics were killed as they gathered for Mass. Two were priests: one was killed at the altar and the other as he left the confessional. They are joined in death with hundreds of others who have died for their faith in Christ since the current conflict began.

An American Dominican Sister, a friend of a friend, has written from that country: “Waves of grief have enveloped their world, surging along the fault lines created in Iraqi society by the displacement of thousands of Iraq’s Christian minority who have fled what is clearly a growing genocidal threat…One survivor was asked by a reporter, what do you say to the terrorists? Through his tears he said, ‘We forgive you.’ …Among the victims of this senseless tragedy was a little boy named Adam. Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, ‘enough, enough, enough.’ According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered.”

As bishops, as Americans, we cannot turn from this scene or allow the world to overlook it.

Dear brothers, we have all experienced challenges and even tragedies that tempt us to say at times, “enough.” Yet all of our efforts, our work, our failures and our sense of responsibility pale before the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and the active persecution of Catholics in other parts of the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and in Vietnam, in Sudan and African countries rent by civil conflict. With their faces always before us, we stand before the Lord, collectively responsible for all those whom Jesus Christ died to save; and that is more than enough to define us as bishops and to keep us together in mission. May the Lord during these days give us vision enough to see what he sees and strength enough to act as he would have us act. That will be enough.

(Additional commentary on the attack)

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