(AsiaNews) - We publish an address by Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk (northern Iraq), which he delivered at
a prayer meeting organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The event took
place last Friday in Paris (France) in a church overflowing with faithful who
had come to hear important representatives of the universal Church from regions
where Christians are persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Among the speakers, there were Card Joseph Zen, who spoke about the
Church in China; Paul Bhatti, brother of the late Shahbaz Bhatti who was killed
by Muslim fundamentalists on 2 March 2011 and now special national harmony
adviser to the prime minister of his country; the Coptic bishop of Assiut in
Egypt, Mgr. Kirrolos William Simaan; and of course Mgr Sako of Iraq.
During the ACN meeting, the names of last year's Christian martyrs as
well as those of the first part of this year were read out, with candles
lighted in front of their pictures. The vigil was preceded by a Mass celebrated
by the apostolic nuncio to France and co-celebrated by the cardinals and
Here is the address by Mgr Louis Sako sent to AsiaNews, which we gladly publish:
is apostolic because it is a martyr Church. Faith is not an ideological issue
or a utopia but rather a personal tie, sometimes existential, with the person
of Christ, whom we love and to whom we give our entire life. For Him, we must always
go farther, including sacrifice. Such is the absolute expression of loyalty to
this love. In Iraq today more than ever before, we are conscious that believing
is love and love is giving.
Gospel, before and after the Resurrection, Jesus reassured his disciples many
times when he told them, "Do not be afraid!" When Jesus says the same today, he
does so on the basis of the Father's love for us and his love for Him. For us,
it is possible to respond to such love, which is connected to our faith. Love and
faith are one and the same. They go together. Such boundless love gives life its
meaning and its eternal dimension for those who love each other know that their
love transcends them. Such is a true mystery. Love is the logical consequence
of life and the resurrection.
Christians of Iraq, as a minority that is constantly facing difficulties and
sacrifices, we know what it means to be persecuted, kidnapped and killed. We know
how it feels to be powerless. We are aware of the dangers, but our faith gives
us the courage to continue to hope and love. Our Church is apostolic not only
because it was founded by the apostles, but also because it is a martyr Church as
was the Church of the apostles. Like the Iraqi martyrs whom we cannot forget,
we find the strength to persevere, hoping for a change in men's heart, in which
a divine seed grows. I cannot forget Fadi, a choirboy killed in our church Our
Lady of Kirkuk. Nor can I forget Deacon Wayil, or the sisters Marguerite
and Fadila, who came to mass every evening. I certainly cannot forget Mgr Faraj
Rahho and Fr Raghid Ganni. I am convinced that the sacrifice of 973 Christians
and of thousands more Muslims in Iraq will not be in vain. One day, it will
help us realise that love means life.
Christians around the world need to "renew" their vow to follow Christ in light
of the Christians martyred and persecuted in Iraq and elsewhere. The prayers,
solidarity and support of our Christian sisters and brothers in the West and
elsewhere encourage us to remain in our homeland and stand in our churches. This
long-distance union with every Christian helps us live here, side by side and
in peace with our Muslims neighbours, so that we continue our presence and
witness of love and forgiveness.