St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Syrian Priest Recalls Months as ISIS Captive

“Masked men came into the monastery of Mar Elian and abducted me along with a volunteer. They forced us into a car and then left us in the middle of the desert for four days, blindfolded and chained up. Then they took us to Raqqa, the capital of ISIS.” …

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Iraq: ‘We Priests and Nuns Will Be the Last to Leave’

Rome, April 15, 2015

This report is provided by Oliver Maksan  of Aid to the Church in Need.

“At night we often hear gunfire. But luckily we are quite a bit away from the fighting,” Father Steven says. In fact, as the crow flies, the town of Alqosh is only 10 miles away from the front line, where the heavily armed Kurdish Peshmerga forces and ISIS fighters are facing off. …

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‘You Are In the Heart of the Church’, Pope Tells Iraqi Christians

Vatican City, September 03, 2014

Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying they are in the heart of the Church and a witness to her strength and message of salvation.

Addressing Arabic speakers at the end of his Sept. 3rd weekly general audience in which he taught on the motherhood of the Church, the Pope said: “The Church is a mother and like all mothers knows how to accompany the child in need, to raise the fallen son, to care for the sick, look for the lost, rouse the sleeping children and also defend the defenceless and persecuted.

“Today I want to assure, especially the latter, of this closeness,” he said, directing his comments especially to suffering Christians in Iraq. “You are in the heart of the Church; she suffers with you and is proud of you; you are her strength and the concrete and authentic witnesses to her message of salvation, forgiveness and love. The Lord bless you and protect you!”

Islamic State militants have forced thousands of Iraqi Christians from their homes over the past few weeks. Some have also been brutally attacked, murdered or enslaved. 

In a separate message to Polish pilgrims, Pope Francis recalled the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War.  He noted that many Polish cities in these days are holding events to remember this occasion and prayed for God’s mercy “on those who lost their lives for their love of country and of brothers.”

“We invoke the gift of peace for all the nations of Europe and the world, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace,” he prayed.

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Cardinal Veglio: Church Must Defend Poor and Voiceless in Middle East

Vatican City, August 29, 2014

Pope Francis met Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, on Thursday to discuss the plight of those fleeing the Islamist violence in Iraq.

Cardinal Vegliò told Vatican Radio the Pope said the Church must be at the forefront of efforts to defend the weak. 

“The Church must help those most in need, because their rights are being trampled upon,” he told Vatican Radio.  “The Church is for the poor and the voiceless.  We must be present and never tire …

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Papal Envoy: Iraqi Minorities Facing Genocide, Calls For Urgent Action

Baghdad, August 20, 2014

The Pope’s special envoy to Iraq has said Christians and religious minorities in the country are facing genocide and the international community must act quickly to come to their aid.

In an interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire Wednesday, Cardinal Fernando Filoni said Iraqis have told him the world must urgently help them and “not wait until they are in a hopeless situation.”

“We are faced with a tragedy that is genocide,” Cardinal Filoni said, …