UNITED KINGDOM: Suffering but with a heart full of hope

Decapitated statue of Our Lady from Mar Qeryaqos Church, Batnaya, in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.
Decapitated statue of Our Lady from Mar Qeryaqos Church, Batnaya, in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains.

At a live-streamed Mass for Aid to the Church in Need, the charity’s UK chaplain invited ACN’s friends and supporters to draw strength from the Virgin Mary during this time of pandemic and to reach out in acts of compassion – especially for persecuted Christians.

At today’s Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – to whom the Catholic charity is dedicated – Father Dominic Robinson recalled a recent visit to Batnaya, a Christian village in northern Iraq overrun by Daesh (ISIS) and how he saw a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary.

Describing how the families he met there highlighted their struggle to rebuild their lives and forgive their persecutors, he said the desecrated statue he saw offered fresh hope.

Speaking during the Mass at Farm Street Church, in London, where he is parish priest, Father Robinson said: “[The statue of] Our Lady may have lost her head but her heart was reaching out to the Christians, calling them to constant conversion, to reconciliation, to work for a better world, to bring the kingdom of her son back to this sorry place when the evil one had to flee.”

The Jesuit priest said just as the villagers he met in Iraq had offered to pray for him so persecuted and other suffering Christians today have pledged to pray for us in the West during the COVID-19 crisis.

Father Robinson said: “So many of our brothers and sisters have said they pray for us now as we take the brunt of this pandemic.”

He added: “Our communion with our brothers and sisters in Iraq teaches me about what it is to be a Christian and how much we, as Christians, need to shed rays of light in a world often darkened by the evil inflicted on fellow human beings, the freedom stolen from whole generations, yes, in the false name of religion.”

And, in a message especially relevant during the COVID-19 lockdown, Father Robinson said Our Lady offers great hope.

He said: “She protects each one of us as does a mother because she loves us as only a mother could.

“And she teaches us to become authentic disciples, responding to [God’s] call as she did.”

Stating that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion, he called on people to support ACN whose work he described as “important” and “prophetic”.

The charity has announced a €5m (£4.38m) COVID-19 aid programme.

To support the campaign click here.