This All Saints Day we not only commemorate those who have gone before us through the centuries, but we are vividly reminded that sainthood through martyrdom is not something of the ancient past. Yesterday more than 40 Syriac Catholics were martyred in Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Baghdad where 120 Catholics had been taken hostage by Muslim extremists demanding release of Muslim women given sanctuary by a Coptic church in Egypt.
Most of the terrorists were killed when Iraqi security forces stormed the Cathedral when they believed killing of the hostages had begun. As the security forces moved in the terrorists set off two suicide vest bombs killing at least 58 people, including parishioners, security forces and three of the terrorists.
Pope Benedict XVI issued the following message: “ 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.”
The level of incivility in our national dialogue has reached a crescendo. Catholics in Iraq specifically link the violence against them by Muslim extremists to anti-Muslim demonstrations and threats to burn the Koran in the United States. Our actions have consequences far beyond our control.
Hatred begins in the heart and is then expressed in words and ultimately turns into violence. People of goodwill can and will disagree. Others should not be vilified or punished for holding an opposing view.
Change must begin with each of us. I call upon all Catholics to tone down the level of hatred in their comments and conversations.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their Faith.