Prince praises agencies working in Middle East

The Prince of Wales addresses the Advent Reception at Archbishop's House, Westminster
The Prince of Wales addresses the Advent Reception at Archbishop's House, Westminster

Representatives of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK were among the guests at an Advent Reception hosted by the Cardinal Vincent Nichols and attended by the Prince of Wales. The reception brought together Christian leaders from the Middle East, alongside charities and other groups that work with them and support them.

The reception at Archbishop’s House in London was attended by representatives from the Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Catholic Melkite Churches. Among the guests at the reception were Sarah Teather who will take over as the Director of JRS UK next month, and Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, the Superior of the Mount Street Jesuit Community in central London who was also there on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need. The Prince of Wales also met guests and representatives from Iraqi Christians in Need and Friends of the Holy Land and paid tribute to those organisations that are working in the Middle East.

Prince Charles told the gathering of his visits to the region and the testimonies he had heard from those suffering as a result of the violence: "At this traditional time of prayer and reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation, it seems to me vital that we pause for more than a moment to think about the plight of Christians in the lands where the Word was actually ‘made flesh and dwelt among us,’" he said.

Preserving the heritage of Middle Eastern ChristianitySarah Teather of JRS UK with the Prince of Wales and Cardinal Nichols

The Prince of Wales described the plight of our Christian communities in the Middle East as “heart-breaking”, and said that their suffering is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth. “Consequently,” he went on, “the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure that the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations - quite apart from doing all we can to provide practical support to those who are persecuted.” He said he was “heartened … to witness at first-hand the way in which each of your church communities is continuing to live the faith of your Fathers.  By protecting the wisdom which has been handed down to you, you are doing your utmost to ensure that there is a future for your children and grandchildren."

The Advent Reception at Archbishop’s House included choral pieces by the Chaldean Church's adult choir and their children's choir. The intercessions for those caught up in violence and conflict in the Middle East were led by Cardinal Nichols who thanked the Prince of Wales for his leadership and insistence in this matter at a time when there was a danger in the UK of losing sight of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society. The Cardinal recognised the suffering of Muslims, Yazidis and all those slaughtered for their faith, caught up in violence or driven from their homes in the continuing conflicts. However, at this time of Christmas and in this country he said there should be a particular concern for those who suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.

Tolerance, trust and forgiveness

"As a society we strive to offer respect to all people, but forget that such respect is due because of the God-given dignity of every human being,” Cardinal Nichols said. “We rejoice in the compassion and generosity which characterise this country, but we may fail to remember that they are rooted in Biblical imperatives, just as is our administration of justice. Our tolerance and readiness to make space for each other has its roots in the imperative to forgive those who may offend us. And the trust needed for so many of our transactions is ultimately rooted in the fact that we have one Heavenly Father and that in Him we are brothers and sisters. In nurturing these practical values by which our society strives to live we do well to recognise that our Christian heritage as a huge and powerful resource."