To The Conscience of the World: Iraq’s Christians, A Double Catastrophe

 To The Conscience of the World: Iraq’s Christians, A Double Catastrophe
An Urgent Appeal by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
(taken from the Blog of His Excellency, Bishop Gregory. J Mansour posted on 25 August)

It has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the core of their lives and their existence whether through displacing more than a hundred thousand Christians by force, or looting their possessions, money, and documents, or occupying their houses for just being Christian! I visited the camps of the displaced persons in the provinces of Erbil and Dohok and what I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination!
Since the 6th of August until now there is not yet an immediate concrete solution for the crisis we are facing. On the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the Islamic State. Despite the fact that we are living an organized campaign of elimination from Iraq, the world conscience is not fully awake to the gravity of the situation. Now, the second phase of the calamity has already began, which is the migration of these families to the different parts of the world, thus dissolving the history, heritage, and identity of these people into void.
Displacement and migration have their great impact on us, both on Christians and Muslims. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence begins the vanishing of a genuine tradition!
The international community, principally the United States and European Union due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent. While acknowledging all that is being done to solve this crisis, it seems that the decisions and actions undertaken until now have made no real change in the course of events and the fate of these affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race!
The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization.
Religious fundamentalism is still growing in its power and force, creating tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading a genuine culture of accepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights.
What has happened is terrible and horrific, therefore, we need an urgent and effective international support from all the people of good will to save the Christians and Yezidis, genuine components of the Iraqi society from extinction, knowing that silence and passivity will encourage ISIS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies! The question is who will be next?
Many of these displaced persons wish to return to their towns and houses in the Nineveh Plain, and hope to see it safe under international protection. But the full safety of this zone cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the International Community along with the joint action of the Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan. These innocent people deserve to live in peace and dignity after the terror afflicted on them by the ISIS and after being looted by their own neighbors.
The Church: Certainly we are proud of the faith of our sons and daughters and their steadfastness and courage in the face of this calamity for the sake of their belief. We invite them to live this crisis in a real communion with all the people around them without any distinction. What we need is not exhausting statements but real communion with others which we experienced during the visit of the delegation of the French bishop’s conference, Personal Envoy of Pope Francis and Patriarchs. This crisis is empowering us for a spiritual, moral and material reconstruction of our communities. We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us to carry the message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako,
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq




Assumption Pilgrimage 2014 - Ohio

By Natalie Salameh

We enjoyed several days of prayer and visiting with friends at the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackson, Ohio in celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

The pilgrimage began on Wednesday evening, August 13, with a Divine Liturgy of the Roman Church celebrated by His Excellency, Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, followed by a candlelit procession and blessing with the Icon of Our Lady of Lebanon.

On both Wednesday and Thursday nights, we spent time in prayer, adoration and fellowship with the MYO of the parish with their Excellencies, Bishop Elias Zaidan and Bishop Gregory Mansour also in attendance. Both Bishops spoke to the teens on the role of Our Blessed Mother in our everyday lives and they emphasized that we should never be afraid of loving Mary too much because she is our mother, given to us by Jesus as he was suffering on the cross. Like a good mother, she is always there to nurture, guide and support us, her beloved children.

On Thursday, August 14, we were blessed to hear a number of conferences and to celebrate a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, offered by His Excellency, Bishop John Bura, Bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of St. Josaphat Parma, Ohio. Following Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine Tradition has a very beautiful ritual of burying the Mother of God on the vigil of her Dormition, a ritual they call the “Funeral of the Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary”. We processed behind the tomb and shroud of the Virgin Mary, which was later placed in the chapel for all to venerate.

On the day of the Feast of the Assumption, Friday August 15, we celebrated the Maronite Pontifical Liturgy outside beside the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. The Liturgy was followed by a huge candlelit procession around the entire shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, with a great number in attendance. The procession concluded with a beautiful display of fireworks above the shrine, and festivities in the Cedars Hall.

We remembered you in our prayers during these holy days of pilgrimage at the Shrine and we especially remembered our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Our Lady of Lebanon, pray for us.


Visit with Ruthenian Nuns - Ohio

On our way back home from the Assumption Pilgrimage in Ohio, we stopped by for a  visit to our friends, the Ruthenian Catholic nuns of the Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio. The Bridegroom Nuns are a new Byzantine Catholic monastic community of women in the Eparchy of Parma. We were blessed to visit with them, share a meal with them and partake of their hospitality. May God continue to bless them and their community with vocations.         



The Assumption of the Mother of God

The Assumption 

The following passage is taken from “Captivated by His Teachings” by Fr. Anthony Salim.

“Although not explicitly stated in Sacred Scripture, the doctrine of the “Assumption” (or Dormition: “Falling Asleep”) of Mary, body and soul, into heaven at the end of her earthly life comes from the Church’s sacred Tradition. This is a celebration of Mary’s share in the Resurrection.

Many of the prayers of today’s Divine Liturgy either imply or symbolically express the favor God bestowed upon Mary in the Assumption. The third strophe of the Qolo of the day is a good example:

‘On this day you slept in death, Virgin Mother of the Lord.
You had carried God’s own Son, Christ, who carries all the world, and
now you are taken up in majesty, called to be with God.
As you leave this earthly world for the new eternal world, the angels, in awe, lead you into paradise.
They rejoice on your great feast and honor you as they sing their hymns of praise.’”

May the prayers of Our Blessed Mother on this her special feast grant all peoples and nations lasting peace, especially in Iraq, Syria and all the Middle East.

Our Lady of the Cedars Festival - Boston

Our Lady of the Cedars Festival - Boston

On Saturday, August 9, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light attended the annual festival hosted by Our Lady of the Cedars Church, Boston, in honor of Our Lady’s Assumption.  We enjoyed meeting and greeting the parishioners, and participating in the festivities.

We had the blessing to meet the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, His Excellency, Youssef Soueif. His Excellency was very encouraging and supportive of our mission as Maronite Servants, and was delighted to see the growth in our congregation.


Light of Life (LOL) – Maronite Bible Camp 2014

By Natalie Salameh

LOL Maronite Club summer camp concluded today with Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Mother of Light Convent by Father Jack Morrison of Our Lady of Purgatory, New Bedford. There were LOL members, volunteers, and parents in attendance. 

The LOL Club began on Monday, August 4 with a week of learning about how much God loves them through DVD's, crafts, bible sharing, games, prayer, choir practice, and snacks. This year’s program was written and coordinated by Mother Marla Marie and Sr. Therese Maria, with an Australian “Outback” theme. We were riding the Boomerang Express all the way to Jesus and the children were able to learn some fun facts about Australia along the way!
Each day’s spiritual program and catechesis presented a different theme: self-worth as God’s children; friendship and its true meaning; obedience to God and our parents; and the virtue of courage.

After the closing Liturgy today, all those in attendance enjoyed mini-golf at Caddy Shack and bumper boats followed by lunch. The children very much enjoyed themselves, and it was great to hear that affirmed by the parents who mentioned to us that their kids were “having so much fun”.