With these words, Pope Francis on Sunday captured perfectly the reaction of people of goodwill everywhere to the horror unfolding in Iraq.
At yesterday’s Angelus in Rome, he said: “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; 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!”
An urgent plea for help has been issued to the world by the Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad. Catholic agencies here in Canada are working closely with their partners on the ground to respond to the vast array of needs among the Iraqi people, including the Canadian Catholic Organization of Development and Peace and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association – Canada. I encourage your financial support of these organizations at this critical time. They are also active in other areas of the Middle East, so your support will touch those needs also.
In addition, the Holy See has issued an urgent call to the Bishops of Canada (and other countries) and their Dioceses to unite with Pope Francis in heartfelt prayer to the Holy Spirit for peace in the Middle East. The Archdiocese of Edmonton will celebrate a special Mass for peace in the Middle East on Wednesday evening, August 27, at St. Joseph's Basilica. At that celebration a special collection will be taken to support the work of the aforementioned charities. I invite your participation.
In yesterday’s Gospel passage (Matthew 14: 22-33), Jesus walked across the water to come to the aid of his disciples in distress. Today the Church, the Body of Christ, is being called to “cross the waters”, that is to say, to reach across all that separates us from our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in their distress and offer them help. Keeping us apart is not just geography. We can also be separated from them by indifference or defeatism. Let neither of these keep us from responding. Prayer transcends all distance and awakens our consciences. When we act in and through Christ, He makes all things possible.
The incredible suffering taking place “across the waters” of the Atlantic and Mediterranean calls out for our loving response. Let us heed the urgent pleas for help and respond in prayer and charity.