Update: We have been assigned a parish – Saint George Church in Telskuf, Iraq – a 95% Catholic village about twenty miles north of Mosul.
You’ve already been praying for Catholics in Iraq. You know that we’re taking up a second collection to help our brothers and sisters rebuild their churches.
There have been some questions about how the money from our second collection will be transferred to Saint George Church. We will send a check to the Chaldean Catholic Diocese in Michigan. They will wire it to the pastor of Saint George Church, who will give us a detailed accounting of how the money is spent.
Father Jack is giving us a special challenge: to take care of our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
Pope Saint John Paul II had planned to visit Ur, the city of Abraham’s birth, as part of a Holy Year 2000 pilgrimage. He was disappointed to have to cancel his trip because his security team could not guarantee his safety.
Many of the Christians have abandoned their homes as they flee from the advance of ISIS. Those who remained were forcibly removed or killed.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Mosul
United States bishops often number their constituents in the tens of thousands. In the Diocese of Tulsa, Bishop David Konderla is the shepherd of about 60,000 Catholics. Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Paul Coakley has 114,000 Catholics in his archdiocese.
The Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq governs a group of Catholics that is about half the number of the Church of Saint Mary in Tulsa. The estimated 2,400 Catholics in Mosul and the surrounding towns trace their lineage back to the earliest days of Christianity.
The Catholics in Iraq recite the same creed as Catholics in Tulsa; they look to Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ, and they receive God’s grace through the sacraments. And yet while most Catholics in Tulsa are Roman Catholic, our brothers in Iraq are Chaldean Catholics.
About 90% of the world’s Catholics are Roman Catholic. Anyone who has traveled abroad and attended Mass in a foreign language will immediately recognize the familiar order and pace of the Mass. However, most Catholics in the oldest parts of the Christian world are not Roman Catholic, yet they are very much Catholic.
The Hopes and Challenges of 2017
As ISIS retreats away from Mosul, Iraqi Catholics are eager to move back into their home towns. As families leave aid stations and walk to visit their home churches, they are dismayed to discover those churches have been damaged or destroyed.
In mid-February 2017, a parish community erected a large cross on a hill where a Catholic church once stood. The local priest said Mass on the hilltop for the small group.
What can we do?
At the Church of Saint Mary, we are blessed with abundant resources and many freedoms our brothers and sisters in Iraq lack. This Lent, we may
- give Alms during the April 22/23 second collection benefiting Iraqi Catholics,
- pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters,
- focus on the larger picture, beyond our own country, and
- remember that the Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world.
We hope to form a partnership with a parish in the Archdiocese of Mosul. As that partnership forms, we will have opportunities to support our brothers and sisters, and to interact with them – especially with Catholic schools as they are rebuilt.