Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor to celebrate Mass for the people of Iraq


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is to celebrate Mass in Westminster Cathedral (Monday 16 June, 2008, 5.30pm) in support of Iraqi Christians and all those still suffering violence in the country.

At a time when many of Iraq’s Christians have been forced to flee the volatile and dangerous situation in their homeland, the Mass will offer an opportunity for bishops and worshippers to come together to stand in solidarity with Iraq’s Christians. It will also be a time to pray for peace in Iraq and also for Iraqi communities here in England and Wales.

Bishop Crispian Hollis, Bishop of Portsmouth, will be preaching at the Mass and Bishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, with responsibility for Ethnic Chaplaincies, will concelebrate together with other Catholic bishops.

During the Mass, special prayers will be said for Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul who was killed in March 2008 having been kidnapped after leading prayers at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, for Margaret Hassan and for the many others who have lost their lives in Iraq.

Just a month ago, Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth and Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham visited Erbil, Kirkuk, and Sulemaniyah in northern Iraq, at the invitation of the Chaldean bishops and shared in the experiences of the people, priests and religious of the area. The bishops also spent time at the Chaldean Seminary of St Peter in Ainkawa, a Christian town near Erbil.
Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, who hosted the bishops, said: “Many people have left their homes, their property and their jobs and they are losing their patience so this visit was very helpful to encourage us to continue with courage and hope for a better future.”

Recently, the Catholic charity for suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need, spoke to Fr Habib Jajou, who will play a part in the Mass as chaplain for the London-based Iraqi Chaldean Christian community. He referred to the volatile situation in Iraq: “What we want to do is just let people know how serious the situation is for our communities in Iraq – not just Christians but other minorities.”

Notes to Editors:

The Mass will take place at Westminster Cathedral, 5.30pm, 16 June.

The Gospel will be sung in Arabic and the Our Father will be said in Aramaic – the language closest to Christ’s dialect.

Some of the organisations supporting the local Church in Iraq are:

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a Catholic charity for suffering Christians. It supports Iraqi refugees – especially those in Turkey, Jordan and Syria and provides Mass stipends to help priests in poor and persecuted areas. It has also provided emergency humanitarian help in Iraq.

“At ACN we have watched with increasing alarm the crisis which has struck at Christianity in Iraq threatening wipeout within a generation if not sooner”
John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information, Aid to the Church in Need

Iraqi Christians in Need (ICIN)

Iraqi Christians in Need was set up in 2007 to support Christians both in Iraq and those who are now refugees in Syria. Working with local Catholic and Orthodox churches, the charity has provided families with financial help towards daily needs and also medical costs. It is planning to run a programme of English language and computer courses for young people in Aleppo, Syria.

Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS)
The Pontifical Mission Societies in Amman, Jordan have been working with Iraqi refugees since 1991. The work took on a new urgency in 2003 when refugees escaping the conflict in Iraq came in even greater numbers. They run several types of projects, humanitarian and pastoral, using the local Church in Jordan, sisters especially, as their principal partners. Every penny they receive for the refugees goes to this vital work and costs are kept to a minimum.

For further information about the Mass please contact:

Eddie Tulasiewicz
Diocesan Communications Officer
Tel. 020 7798 9031
Address: Archbishop’s House, Ambrosden Avenue, London SW1P 1QJ

And for further information about the local Church in Iraq, please contact:
The Catholic Communications Network on 020 7901 4800