The story of the Middle East in 2014 is one of war and displacement, broken families and tireless aid workers, and the rise of a new group one scholar referred to as “al-Qaida on steroids,” Catholic News Service reports.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has set a day of prayer for peace in Iraq and Syria on Sunday, Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, has also appealed for a “charity collection”, which must be remitted to the CBCP Secretariat by September 30, 2014 so the aid can be “immediately” transmitted to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Iraq and Syria.
Read Archbishop Villegas’ full statement dated September 5 and posted Sunday on the FaceBook account of Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called on Filipino Catholics to offer prayers and funds to aid people who are suffering in the hands of militant groups in Iraq and Syria.
Archbishop Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in a statement posted Aug. 27 on the portal of Manila archdiocese’s Veritas 846 radio said aside from displacing, killing and torturing people, the violence by Islamic State and other militants in Iraq and Syria supposedly to build an Islamic nation, has defaced religion.
He appealed to Filipino Catholics to “counter the defacement of religion” by practising mercy, compassion and love. He also appealed to Philippines bishops to collect money to help victims, assuring that the CBCP will see to their delivery to appropriate Church authorities in Iraq and Iran.
Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ appeal posted on Veritas 846
Before a horrified world, militants, without compunction and in utter mercilessness, beheaded journalist James Foley. He may not have died for the faith, but he certainly died, a person of faith, we are told by those who were with him in his last days. Pope Francis sent his grieving family a personal message of condolence. We join our prayers to those of our Holy Father that James may find solace in the bosom of our Loving Father.
James is one of the thousands who now suffer because of the ruthlessness of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and militant groups of like persuasion and brutality. We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all! Thousands have been displaced and must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God.
Not only then are helpless and defenseless persons the victims of the brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion. We will live as our Lord and Master has asked us to live: with love for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief. “By this shall all know that you are my disciples”; by this do we pray to convince the world that faith in a God of love and mercy can still heal our world, as we trust Him who can make all things new!
But that is not enough. I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. These collections will be sent to the CBCP that will see to their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq. While we have our own projects in the Philippines, we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world. They have not only been evicted from their homes.
Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need.
Finally, let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
Pope Francis, himself grieving over relatives’ death and injury in an accident, phoned the family of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.
James Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, in a television interview said the pope’s gesture was “so kind” especially since he was grieving the death of the wife and two young children of his nephew, 35-year-old Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, in a car crash Aug. 19 in Argentina. Bergoglio was critically injured, reports Catholic News Service (CNS).
Its story Pope Phones Family of Slain Journalist reported Pope Francis called because he wanted to console the family.
US intelligence judged as authentic a video released by Islamic State (IS) militants showing the beheading of Foley.
In June, al-Qaeda-inspired forces attacked Iraq areas and since then IS has taken control of territories in Syria and Iraq aiming to turn the entire region into a caliphate (Islamic nation). IS said beheading Foley, who had been seized in Syria in 2012, was retaliation for U.S.’s recent intervention in Iraq.
‘Even the Pope has a family’: Grieving Pope Francis thanks well-wishers after nephew’s wife, 2 sons die in car wreck
A Vatican-approved transcript of Pope Francis’ airborne Press Conference from Korea records the pope saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”
The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, echoing Pope Francis’ recent Angelus prayers, has asked his fellow prelates to offer all their Masses on August 18 for peace in Iraq.
Following is the text of his appeal sent to Catholic In Asia:
This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.
At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”
The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”
Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18.
It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace.
Let there be peace!
From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan