By Robert Moynihan, Inside the Vatican Magazine
Yesterday in Baghdad -- a week after the close of the Synod on the Middle East -- armed vigilantes entered a church during evening Mass, killed the priest and took 100 people hostage. In an ensuing battle, about 50 Catholics were killed, making this arguably the worst attack on Christians in Iraq since 2003 (BBC: The Iraqi government says it had no choice but to storm the Catholic church Baghdad)
Just a week after the close of a Vatican bishops' synod focusing on supporting the Christians living in the Middle East, a slaughter of Christians has occurred in Iraq. The victims, Syriac Catholics, will be buried in Baghdad tomorrow — some 50 innocents, many of them women, one a priest killed while celebrating Sunday evening Mass.
At today's November 1 Angelus for All Saints Day, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the massacre:
"Last evening, in a grave attack on the Syriac-Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, there were scores of deaths and injuries, among them two priests and a group of the faithful there for Sunday's Holy Mass.
"I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, even more ferocious in that it has been inflicted upon defenseless people gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation. I express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, now stricken again, and I encourage its pastors and faithful alike to be strong and firm in hope.
"Beyond these savage moments of violence, that continue to tear apart the peoples of the Middle East, I would lastly like to renew a heartfelt appeal for peace: it is a gift of God, but it is also the result of the efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions. May everyone unite their strengths to end every act of violence!"
No one to defend them
Did all the talk that just occurred for two weeks in Rome -- eloquent talk, learned talk, sometimes enigmatic talk, sometimes emotional talk -- serve any practical purpose? The Christians of the Middle East remain exposed to violence driving them from the region, and no one seems willing, or able, to protect them.
Not the Muslim government in Iraq. Not the American-led military forces still remaining in Iraq. Not the Christian communities themselves. Do average Europeans and American Christians realize that their Christian brothers are fleeing the Middle East, where they have lived for nearly 2,000 years?
Do they realize that, soon, after nearly 2,000 years, there may soon be no longer any substantial Christian presence in the region where Christianity began? What will be the result of such an exodus? When it is complete, only two religious groups will remain in the Middle East, confronting one another: Muslims, and Jews.
UPDATE: Iraq: 52 Killed Said to be In Retaliation For Quran-Burnings In US
--->Joshua Snyder has some beautiful but heartbreaking pictures of the Church which wombed the Baghdad martyrs...
--->Iraqi cardinal denounces church attack...
Update: A Cloud of Mystery settles on the Baghdad Massacre...
SH: Who is to blame, besides the perpetrators, but the war and occupation itself? This is what was unleashed time and again on account of Mr. Bush's disproportionate response to the events of 9-11. If ever there was a group of the persecuted who deserve carte blanche asylum in the West it is the Christians of Iraq who are caught in the crossfire.