CWNews.com - Cardinal Francis George, speaking at the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told those assembled that the two priests slain in the Syrian Catholic cathedral on October 31 were killed while offering Mass and hearing confessions.
“Our brothers in the priesthood, Father Thaer Saad and Father Boutros Wassim, were slain as one celebrated Mass and the other heard confessions,” Cardinal George said. “Father Thaer prayed and asked a terrorist to spare the lives of his parishioners before he died. Father Raphael [a third priest] moved parishioners to a safer location in the Church and was grievously wounded.”
The US bishops affirmed by acclamation the content of Cardinal George’s recent letter calling upon President Barack Obama to come to the aid of Iraqi Christians.
In his final address as USCCB president, Cardinal George also said:
We are not a national Church; we resist being transformed into a purely American denomination. I therefore cannot depart this position or leave you today without speaking of our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq. Ever since the capture of Baghdad, it has been clear to anyone of good will that, while Muslim groups might be in conflict with one another, it was uniquely the Christians who were without protection in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq. Now, at the end of last month, on the vigil of the feast of All Saints, in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of our Lady of Deliverance in the city of Baghdad, many dozens of Catholics were killed as they gathered for Mass. Two were priests: one was killed at the altar and the other as he left the confessional. They are joined in death with hundreds of others who have died for their faith in Christ since the current conflict began. An American Dominican Sister, a friend of a friend, has written from that country: “Waves of grief have enveloped their world, surging along the fault lines created in Iraqi society by the displacement of thousands of Iraq’s Christian minority who have fled what is clearly a growing genocidal threat…One survivor was asked by a reporter, what do you say to the terrorists? Through his tears he said, ‘We forgive you.’…Among the victims of this senseless tragedy was a little boy named Adam. Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, ‘enough, enough, enough.’ According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered.” As bishops, as Americans, we cannot turn from this scene or allow the world to overlook it.
Dear brothers, we have all experienced challenges and even tragedies that tempt us to say at times, “enough.” Yet all of our efforts, our work, our failures and our sense of responsibility pale before the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and the active persecution of Catholics in other parts of the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and in Vietnam, in Sudan and African countries rent by civil conflict. With their faces always before us, we stand before the Lord, collectively responsible for all those whom Jesus Christ died to save; and that is more than enough to define us as bishops and to keep us together in mission.
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