Westminster Abbey: Prince Charles salutes courage and faith of Middle East Christians

  • John Pontifex, Jo Siedlecka

Image:  Andrew Dunsmuir

Image: Andrew Dunsmuir

Source: ACN/Westminster Abbey/ICN

HRH The Prince of Wales paid tribute to the courage and faith of persecuted Christians at a service in Westminster Abbey which brought together Church leaders from across the Middle East.

At the evening service, yesterday (Tuesday, 4th December), Prince Charles said: "We can only give thanks for the truly remarkable strength of the Faith with which so many Christians face persecution and which gives them the courage and the determination to endure, and to overcome."

He also said: "Earlier this year, I had the great joy of meeting a Dominican Sister from Nineveh [northern Iraq], who, in 2014, as Daesh [ISIS] extremists advanced on the town of Qaraqosh, got behind the wheel of a minibus crammed full of her fellow Christians, and drove the long and dangerous road to safety."

Attending the service were bishops and other Church leaders who had flown in from Iraq, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and the Gulf.

In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, highlighted the persecution of Middle East Christians, stating: "When the Church of Jesus Christ is attacked, it is an attack on Christ himself - when any part of the Church suffers, we also suffer and yet distance and ignorance take away the pain we should feel."

The service was led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding: "In this Advent season, as we approach the celebration of Christmas, our hearts and minds turn to the cradle of our civilisation, and in particular to Bethlehem as the birth-place of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

"So we pray for all the people of the Holy Land and of the surrounding nations. We pray that they may live in harmony one with another, respecting difference and celebrating common humanity. And we pray for peace within each nation and between all peoples of whatever faith."

Further Reflections were read by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem; and Maulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Director General and Chief Imam, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

The Address was given by the Right Honourable and Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and Metropolitan.

Sister Nazek Matty, Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Sienna, Iraq, gave a testimony, describing how she had returned to Nineveh to help rebuild Christian communities.

Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, read Job 38: 1-11; and the Most Reverend Suheil Dawani, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, read St Luke 8: 16-21 in Arabic.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Christopher Stoltz, Minor Canon and Precentor, and said by: the Very Reverend Dr Shafiq Abouzayd, Archimandrite, Melkite Greek Catholic Church; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London; the Right Reverend Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough; Father Timothy Radcliffe OP; the Reverend Anthony Ball, Canon in Residence.

The Coptic Diocesan Choir sang the Introit, O King of Peace; and the Choir of the Syriac Orthodox Church in London chanted The Lord's Prayer.

The service was sung by an octet from the Special Service Choir of Westminster Abbey, directed by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist. The organ was played by Alexander Hamilton, Organ Scholar.

Following the event, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, said: "Seeing Westminster Abbey filled with so many who came to recognise and pray for Christians in the Middle East was truly inspiring. The event was prayerful while also very honest in its description of both the plight and gracious contribution of Christians in the region.

"I am so thankful that His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, has taken the interest and time to give this matter the priority it so crucially deserves at a time when many thousands are suffering displacement, persecution, and some even the tragic loss of loved ones. I am also thankful to Westminster Abbey and its Dean and Chapter for so generously hosting this event and for giving our Coptic Orthodox Choir and Clergy the honour of taking part in such a historic moment in time."

His Eminence concluded by saying:

It is only when we all come together as Churches, organisations, governments, and so many other interested parties, that we can provide tangible and holistic solutions to the immense challenges encountered by many of our Christian sisters and brothers on a daily basis. Core to this, is also keeping this matter alive and relevant in the eyes, hearts and minds of our global community. We pray, as we continue to come together for those who struggle and suffer, that they are comforted and supported by the grace of God and by our collective interest and action in and for them as individuals and communities."

See also: ICN 5 December 2018 - Text: Address by HRH The Prince of Wales at service to celebrate contribution of Christians in Middle East - www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36125

Tags: Prince of Wales, Middle East Christians, Westminster Abbey

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.