By Christopher Wells
Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Erbil, Iraq, on Thursday. The Holy See’s Cardinal Secretary of State is visiting Iraq during the Christmas season, with a journey that began in Baghdad on Christmas Eve.
After concelebrating the Vigil Mass with Chaldean Partiarch Louis Raphaël I Sako, Cardinal Parolin spent Christmas Day in the Iraqi capital, before travelling to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Secretary of State celebrated Mass in the Chaldean cathedral in Erbil, with Archbishop Bashar Warda, Bishop Basel Salim Yaldo, and members of the faithful, along with local authorities and members of the diplomatic corps.
In his homily, Cardinal Parolin recognized the “great generosity” displayed by the local community in welcoming Christian refugees, especially from Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh. “Hatred and intolerance,” he said, “were countered by solidarity and closeness” on the part of all those who supported suffering Christians and other Iraqis.
Celebrating the mystery of Christ's love
He noted that, during the Christmas season, “we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love, which led Him become one of us in the desire to make us one with Himself.” This can be seen in particular, he said, in Christ’s identification with his disciples, especially those who are persecuted.
A Church of martyrs
“You are a Church of martyrs,” Cardinal Parolin said to the local community. “The blood of your martyrs and the witness of faith given by so many of your brothers and sisters represent a treasure for the Church and a seed of new vitality.”
Living the faith with joy and gratitude
Cardinal Parolin encouraged them to “keep living your faith with joy and gratitude.” And echoing Pope Francis, he urged them “not to let yourselves be robbed of hope.”
“The true message of Christmas is that of peace and goodness for all, a message of love for our neighbour,” the Cardinal said in conclusion. “In this blessed season, I wish for you, and for all of Iraq, the gifts of unity, reconciliation and concord.”