Pray for peace in Iraq

The Jesuits in Britain have joined the Holy Father’s prayers for peace in Iraq. Pope Francis has appealed on several occasions over the past few weeks for violence to stop and has urged the Church to intercede for a peaceful solution to the fighting in the Middle East, most recently at last Sunday's Angelus.

Fr Dermot Preston SJ, the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, says that the Pope has expressed his deep concern at the situation in this region of the world and has expressed his “spiritual closeness” to those who are suffering.  Read Fr Preston's reflection on religious conflict here.

"The Holy Father has made impassioned appeals on behalf of these devastated communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up a ceaseless prayer with one voice," he says. "We join with them all as we implore the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace and ask Mary, the Queen of Peace, to pray for us.”  

Jesuit parishes across Britain have also been heeding Cardinal Vincent Nichols call for prayer. In a statement, the Cardinal called on the UK Government to help communities with humanitarian aid and called for communities to respond to the crisis in northern Iraq. “I invite all people of faith to turn to God in prayer… and seek for our world the change of heart and the gift of grace that alone can bring us peace," he said. 

POPE'S ANGELUS APPEAL

At St Peter's last Sunday, Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims at the Angelus prayer:

"Dear brothers and sisters, 

The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; people massacred; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!

I thank those who, with courage, are bringing succour to these brothers and sisters, and I am confident that an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the [rule of] law. In order better to ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them, I have named [Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples] Cardinal Fernando Filoni as my Personal Envoy in Iraq, who shall depart from Rome tomorrow [Monday].

In Gaza, also: after a truce, war has once again resumed – a war that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Let us pray together the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Grant us peace, O Lord, in our days, and render us artificers justice and peace.

We also pray for the victims of the Ebola virus and for those who are fighting to stop it."

CARDINAL'S STATEMENT

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, issued the following statement:

"I have followed with deep sadness the unfolding disaster in Mosul, in Sinjar and Qaraqosh, and in other towns and villages across northern Iraq. This is a persecution of immense proportions in which Christian, Yezidi and other communities have been targeted by ISIS and forced to flee their ancestral homes in the Nineveh Plains in search of temporary safety. All they are doing is trying to escape certain death. 

Today, I add my voice to those of the Church leaders in Iraq as well as all the Bishops of Oriental Churches who met in Beirut yesterday alongside the Apostolic Nuncio. Along with Christian and Muslim leaders in Wales and many others we appeal for help and protection for these persecuted communities facing a threat to their very existence in their biblical homelands. It is imperative that the international community ensure the physical protection of all communities in Iraq, their human rights including the right to religious freedom. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to lead the efforts in the face of such a human calamity in order to help restore these shattered communities, provide them with urgent humanitarian aid and work with others to ensure their long term security in the land of their birth.

I encourage our own Catholic community to continue to give generously to our agencies working to support the people of Iraq. Above all I invite all people of faith to turn to God in prayer this weekend and seek for our world the change of heart and the gift of grace that alone can bring us peace."