The Iraqi martyrs “example and witness of Christian faith “

Patriarch Sako:

the Iraqi martyrs “example and witness of Christian faith “

by p. Albert Zarazeer

His Beatitude on a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, scene of a bloody attack in October 2010. He emphasizes the symbolic value of the relics of the martyrs, as “precious faith-strengthening treasures”. Their blood is a “seed of new life.” Appeal to the community, to overcome their fear and walk towards “peace and prosperity”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The martyrs in the Christian tradition of the East have a leading role and “their relics” are “precious faith-strengthening treasures”. They also represent a “living spiritual legacy,” which opens the door “to life and the future.” This was underlined by the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, during his homily for Mass celebrated yesterday in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. On the same day that Pope Francis launched an appeal in favor of the persecuted martyrs in the world today, whom he hopes may hear “the consolation of the Risen Jesus”.  The Patriarch on his own initiative made a pilgrimage to the symbol of the Islamic extremist violence in Iraq . On 31 October 2010 the building was attacked by a group linked to al Qaeda, ending in a massacre: more than 50 dead, including two young priests, and dozens wounded. For many faithful present at Mass yesterday, presided over by His Beatitude with a group of priests it was an ecumenical gesture full of “hope.”

The patriarch began his homily explaining the meaning of his “pilgrimage” to the church of the martyrs: “I come as a pilgrim to your cathedral – said Mar Louis Raphael I Sako – the cathedral of glorious martyrs, at the beginning of my patriarchal service in Baghdad”. He then thanked “his Excellency Mar Yousif Abba”, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of the Iraqi capital, whom he called “brother and companion of studies at the seminary in Mosul, for allowing me to make this journey in all its spiritual dimensions.” “I knew some of the martyrs of the massacre – added Mar  Sako – especially the two young priests, Waseem and Tahir, who gave an excellent example of service and sacrifice” for the Church. 

His Beatitude then highlighted the role of martyrs in the Eastern tradition: “In the tradition of the Eastern Churches – he said – martyrs have a prominent role, in the prayers and shrines of our country.” “We sing, at lauds and at vespers every day, of their courage, we visit their relics to receive their blessing, because they are ‘precious treasures’, as sung by the Chaldean rite. Martyrs represent a living spiritual heritage that opens doors to new life and the future. “

In his homily the Patriarch referred to Tertullian, a theologian of the third century AD, who spoke of the martyrs saying that “their blood is the seed of a new life.” “Despite the violence that is not a source of glory in the eyes of God and does not honor man – said His Beatitude – these martyrs remain at the summit of religious values, as emblems of peace, love, service and sacrifice. They are for us a hopeful sign of eternal life. With them we enter into the Paschal Mystery, that is the resurrection of Christ. Just as we do not separate Christ’s death from his resurrection, so we do not separate death from the resurrection of the martyr. “

Mar Louis Raphael I Sako concluded his homily by encouraging the faithful to follow in the footsteps of the martyrs in the paschal journey: “This should not happen on a personal level, but as a community and Church walking on the Easter path. Our people must conquer fear and regain the strength to walk towards peace and prosperity. Our Church, in Iraq in particular, is marked with the sign of Easter. It must not close in on itself, and its troubles, but must understand – concluded the Patriarch – that it is invited by its conscience to change the reality and suffering in the light of Easter, of life and renewal, with a total commitment. “

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