The New Zealand Catholic Bishops are deeply saddened by the recent hostage-taking and killing of worshippers by extremists who invaded the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. This atrocity was followed two days later by coordinated attacks and bombings across Baghdad, believed to be the work of the same group of extremists.
Many Iraqis who now live in New Zealand are grieving for family who were caught up in these events. Many of our Iraqi New Zealanders are living in a permanent state of anxiety as this new wave of violence afflicts their country of origin, threatening the lives and well-being of their families and friends and greatly restricting their freedom.
Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, has described the suffering of Iraqi Christians as “an endless Via Crucis”. The Christian minority in Iraq has reduced greatly in numbers as Christians have fled from the systematic attacks by militant Islamic extremists. The attacks and bombings in Baghdad also killed, injured and terrorized non-Christian Iraqis trying to live ordinary lives, but who now live with constant fear and uncertainty.
We ask Catholics in New Zealand to walk in solidarity with the Chaldean Catholic Iraqi people in New Zealand, and with other Iraqis who are affected by the events in their homeland. We do not want a group of fellow Catholics and fellow citizens to be isolated in their pain, fear and grief. They need to know we care.
We encourage parishes throughout the country to pray regularly for stability and peace in Iraq, and for an end to the attacks on Christians and other Iraqis.
We pray that the souls of those killed in recent weeks in Iraq rest in peace, and that eternal light shines upon them.
Archbishop of Wellington
Bishop of Auckland
Bishop of Dunedin
Bishop of Christchurch
Bishop of Palmerston North
Bishop of Hamilton