From his residence in Kurdistan, an autonomous region within the nation of Iraq, Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, can hear the bombs of Mosul, a mere 60 miles away. About two years ago, his small Christian community in Kurdistan welcomed 110,000 refugees who fled ISIS from Mosul.
“My brothers and sisters, to be persecuted, it’s the fate of the Church of the East. It’s the fate of the Church everywhere. I know here, also, the Church has been persecuted,” Archbishop Warda said in concluding remarks at the World Mission Sunday Mass that Cardinal Dolan offered on Oct. 23 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Yes, we know Mosul will be liberated—and please, God, our people will go back again to rebuild their villages and stay and be bridges of peace,” said Archbishop Warda, who was a concelebrant.
“I ask you, do please pray for us. Do not forget your brothers and sisters who have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ all over the world, especially in Iraq and Syria.
“We need help, yes, but we need brothers and sisters who will tell us that ‘you are not forgotten in our hearts,’” Archbishop Warda continued. “Pray for us. Tell our story. Raise awareness. And keep in mind that persecuted and not forgotten is a blessed moment for all over the Church.”
Cardinal Dolan assured Archbishop Warda of the prayerful remembrance of the Church in New York.
“We will not forget you,” the cardinal said. “We’re in solidarity with you. We pray with you and for you every Sunday. And now our prayers will even be more fervent.
“It’s Mission Sunday—Mission Sunday throughout the Church universal,” Cardinal Dolan said in opening remarks at the Mass. “We unite in prayer with brothers and sisters in the family of the faith all over the Catholic world, in solidarity with our beloved missions.”
This year marked the 90th anniversary of the celebration of World Mission Sunday.
Among other concelebrants at the 10:15 a.m. Mass were missionary priests and representatives from mission-sending communities, including Father Andrew Small, O.M.I., national director for the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, headquartered in Manhattan, and Father Raymond Finch, M.M., Maryknoll superior general.
The presence of Archbishop Warda demonstrated “dramatic evidence of the universality of the Church,” Cardinal Dolan said.
“My brothers and sisters, of course the lesson from God’s Holy Word today on this Mission Sunday is that all of us, if we claim to follow the one on the cross, all of us are called and summoned to be poured out like a libation, to give ourselves in selfless, sacrificial love,” he said.
Sometimes that summons is performed through ordinary, daily acts, the cardinal said; other times, it is heroic.
The cardinal cited the heroism of missionaries, of Archbishop Warda and of Father Douglas Al-Bazi, one of Archbishop Warda’s priests in Iraq, who also concelebrated the Mass. “He was captured, and was held in prison for nine days,” Cardinal Dolan said of Father Al-Bazi. “Nine days of torture. Nine days of suffering. Nine days of libation. Nine days of selfless, sacrificial love.”
In his remarks at the conclusion of the liturgy, Archbishop Warda also shared how Cardinal Dolan, who as chairman of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association visited Iraqi Kurdistan in April, brought hope to the suffering people there.
“Your Eminence, thank you very much for being there, because you left a very blessed memory. You were able to put a smile—nice jokes, also—when you visited all of these camps and entered prefabricated caravans of the families. And that gave us a lot of courage.”
The World Mission Sunday collection supports the Church’s outreach in mission dioceses throughout Africa, Asia, parts of Latin America and Europe, and on the Islands of the Pacific. Historically, a percentage of the collection in each diocese—9 percent—is provided to CNEWA, to its national office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan, to provide for its work in the Eastern Rite churches.
Among the deceased missionaries remembered in the Prayer of the Faithful at the World Mission Sunday Mass at the cathedral was Sister Pauline Chirchirillo, P.B.V.M., the first woman to serve as archdiocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. She died June 21 at age 87.