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On Sunday 18th June His Beatitude Cardinal Archbishop Louis Sako, the Patriarch of Baghdad, celebrated Mass at Ealing Abbey. The Mass was part of a 10-day visit to the UK by the patriarch, organised by Fellowship and Aid to the Christians of the East (FACE). He was invited by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
In common with most Eastern Churches, the Chaldean Church celebrates an elaborate liturgy that is also very musical. The Mass was celebrated in Arabic, using the East Syriac Rite. Ealing Abbey Church, which holds about 650 people, was nearly full for the service. There is a significant number of Chaldean Catholics in Ealing and west London. Several Iraqi families regularly attend Mass at Ealing Abbey.
Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), concelebrated, as did the Bishop of Baghdad, Basil Yaldo, and the head of the Chaldean mission in the UK, Fr Andrew Toma. Cardinal Fitzgerald was previously the head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and is an expert on Christian-Muslim relations. His order, the White Fathers, have the headquartes for their Mission Appeals in Ealing.
Christianity in Iraq
Christianity in Iraq dates back to the second century. Although the Iraqi Church split from the church in he Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Chaldean Church started to reunite with the Catholic Church in the 15th century, and is now in full communiion with Rome. Before the rise of Islam, the majority of Iraqis were Christian. At the start of this century there about one and a half million Catholics in Iraq but there are now fewer than half a million. The fall in numbers is a result of war and persecution.
Later in the week, Cardinal Sako gave a talk to members of the Newman Society at the Oxford Union. There he spoke about Christians in Iraq being forced to convert to Islam. Once converted, anyone who tries return to Christ faces the death penalty. As well as this, many churches in Iraq have been destroyed by militants.
Please keep Iraqi Christians in your prayers.