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Viewpoint: For those who have eyes to see

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The following guest commentary is excerpted from the July 12 issue of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It was written by Peter Finney Jr., executive editor and general manager. It was written before three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, La., but it remains pertinent.

 

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The scholar of the law, because he wished to justify himself, asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?”

A week of black and white bloodshed in America — from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dallas — leads directly to Jerusalem and Jericho. Read more »

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Iraqis ask U.S. Catholic leaders to work for peace, ‘don’t forget us’

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Catholic News Service

IRBIL, Iraq — A delegation of U.S. Catholic leaders visiting northern Iraq was challenged to go home and work for peace in the troubled region.

“You have come to listen to your brothers and sisters in Iraq who are suffering. The situation is very hard. We cry out with one voice, ‘Don’t forget us,’” Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said during a Mass in the small village of Inishke, near Dahuk.

A woman holds an image of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during a Mass in Inishke, Iraq, April 10. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

A woman holds an image of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during a Mass in Inishke, Iraq, April 10. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

The Chaldean Catholic service included members of the local Christian community, as well as Christians who were displaced by the Islamic State group from elsewhere in Iraq. Representatives of the Yezidi and Muslim communities also greeted the delegation, which was headed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The group spent April 9-11 in Kurdistan, the autonomous region of northern Iraq. When Islamic State swept through Mosul and Qaraqosh in 2014, more than 125,000 Christians, along with other victims, fled to safety in Kurdistan, where CNEWA has helped local churches construct housing, clinics and schools.

Yet Bishop Warduni said peace trumps humanitarian aid any day.

“We don’t want anything. Iraq is very rich, but now it is very poor. We only want our rights to go back to our homes and villages,” he said.

Looking directly at Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Warduni said: “We need a good Samaritan, but a new one, and this is you, along with the other leaders who came with you. We thank you and your people, for they have done so much for us with their prayers and with their money. But we ask you to ask your government to establish peace in our country. Tell your president, please, that our children and our youth want to grow in freedom. Your Eminence, take with you our good wishes to your faithful, and don’t forget us.”

In his homily for the Mass, Cardinal Dolan told those in the small church: “You are now suffering away from your homes and families. You are on the cross with Jesus. But we can never forget that Easter always conquers Good Friday. The resurrection always triumphs over the cross.”

Speaking through a translator because the service was in Aramaic, Cardinal Dolan said: “Jesus is alive in the love and charity that his people have for one another. That is why in our time here in Kurdistan we have seen Jesus alive in hospitals and clinics and refugee camps and schools and parishes like this. And it is our privilege to be able to be part of this love and charity that you have for one another here.”

“We have come to tell you we love you very much,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We know of your suffering. And we can never forget you.”

The cardinal was accompanied by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, who is also on the CNEWA board.

In an April 11 Mass in a camp for the displaced in Ankawa, on the outskirts of Irbil, the delegation got the same message it heard the previous day.

“We feel very grateful for this fraternal solidarity that you are showing. And we all do hope that you will intervene with your government, with those who have a word to say on the international scene, to be faithful to the principles on which your country was founded. That includes the right of all people, every human being, to live in freedom and dignity,” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said in his homily.

“When we see that strong nations like yours uphold the rights of those who have been uprooted, at that time we will really live the hope of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.”

In an interview at the end of the visit, Cardinal Dolan said that the pastoral visit would provoke renewed advocacy back home.

“We value the relationship we have with our government, but we sometimes smile when outsiders think we have a lot more clout than we really have. But that’s not going to stop us from trying,” the cardinal said. “When we get back, Bishop Murphy and I will brief our fellow bishops and the Holy See, and we will share with our political leaders what we have seen and heard. We owe it to the people here because they have asked us to do that.”

Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that the church’s counsel was rejected in the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which many believe helped create the conditions from which Islamic State emerged.

“Pope St. John Paul II told our presidents, ‘This will be a road of no return, and you will look back in future years and regret what you’re doing.’”

As they visited with the displaced and the pastoral workers who accompany them, some of what the U.S. church leaders saw and heard was not easy to experience. In an April 9 public forum in a displaced camp in Ankawa, Amal Mare was one of several displaced persons who offered testimony. She praised local Christians for welcoming her family when they fled from Qaraqosh.

“Yet when are we going to be able to leave? We are living here in misery, and we want to go back to Qaraqosh,” she said, sobbing as Cardinal Dolan embraced her. “We miss our churches. We are sons and daughters of the church. Here we created a church in this hall, and every night for the last 18 months we have all prayed the rosary here. But now we’re losing hope. How much longer will we have to wait?”

Meeting April 9 with a group of students at the Chaldean Catholic St. Peter’s Seminary in Irbil, Cardinal Dolan told the seminarians that they had good models of ministry from which to learn.

“Pope Francis keeps saying that we priests must be with our people. We just came from a refugee camp where we met a priest who slept outside on his mattress because he said he couldn’t sleep inside if his people were outside. We’ve met with sisters and priests who walked with the people from Mosul as they were fleeing. That’s the model of the priesthood. That’s Jesus. To be with our people all the time, to be especially close to your people in the difficult times,” the cardinal said.

The head of the Chaldean Catholic community in Kurdistan, which has provided a variety of services to the displaced, praised the church leaders’ visit.

“It has been a visit of solidarity, a visit of love, a visit of hope, where we can really feel that we are not forgotten, that we’ve been in the prayers of His Eminence and the bishops and the whole Christian community in America. It means a lot for us,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil told Catholic News Service.

In addition to Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Murphy, the delegation included Msgr. John Kozar, president of CNEWA, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York.

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Pope thanks pro-life movement for following example of good Samaritan

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said that Christians are called to follow the example of the good Samaritan in helping the defenseless who are attacked by those who steal “not only their possessions but also their dignity.”

Pope Francis waves during a private audience with members of Italy's pro-life movements at the Vatican Nov. 6. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, via Reuters)

Pope Francis waves during a private audience with members of Italy’s pro-life movements at the Vatican Nov. 6. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, via Reuters)

“For Christ’s disciples, helping wounded human life means to encounter people who are in need, to stand by their side, take care of their frailty and their pain, so that they can recover,” the pope said Nov. 6.

“These people, wounded in body and spirit, are the icon of that man in the Gospel who, walking on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, was caught by thieves who robbed and beat him.”

The pope made his reflection during an audience with members of Italy’s pro-life movements. He thanked them for their efforts in imitating the good Samaritan in defending “life from conception to its natural end.”

“In confronting various ways that threaten human life, you have approached the frailty of your neighbor, you have given yourselves so that those who live in precarious conditions are not excluded and cast aside in society,” he said.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of nourishing “personal and social sensitivity” both in accepting new life and toward those who suffer poverty and exploitation. The protection of the unborn, he said, must also go hand-in-hand with caring for the poor as well as defending families and the dignity of women.

“How many families are vulnerable due to poverty, sickness, and lack of work or a home!” he said. “How many elderly people suffer the burden of pain and loneliness! How many young people are lost, threatened by addictions and other slaveries, and are hoping to find confidence in life once again!”

The pope encouraged the Italian pro-life movements to continue on the path of the good Samaritan and to never tire of defending those “who have the right to be born to life, as well as those searching for a more healthy and dignified existence.” He also praised their work in helping those in need, especially women in need.

The number of women, especially immigrants who come to your centers, shows that, when offered concrete support, in spite of problems and constraints, women, are able to have a sense of love, life and motherhood rise above within them,” he said.

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