Basilica and Bishop Burbidge host Iraqi Archbishop to pray for persecuted Christians

Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of the Archdiocese of Ebril, Iraq and Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington celebrated a Votive Mass for Persecuted Christians on January 25 at the Basilica of Saint Mary.

Archbishop Warda is the administrator of pastoral care and relief services for nearly 20,000 threatened Christian families in Northern Iraq.

He described what it was like for Christians in that region in 2014 when ISIS threated them.

“When ISIS came, they gave us three choices: Islam, pay a jizya (tax), or face the sword,” Archbishop Warda said during his homily. “When times of difficulty and persecution come, we may have to sacrifice our lives to show others that Jesus is the Lord we believe in, that he is our Savior. That is the message that our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq have shared with the world.”

He noted that there are 245 million Christians in 37 countries that are currently being persecuted for their faith. He added that the prayers from Christians throughout the world strengthens the persecuted.

“We have realized that the Church is not blind when this persecution goes on,” said Archbishop Warda. “We know that our brothers and sisters from all over the world join us in prayer and are with us. This is like in the Acts of the Apostles when Jacob was beheaded and Peter was imprisoned. The Christian community gathered to pray for Peter because that is the only thing that they could do. They prayed for the persecuted.”

“His Excellency is a leading voice of persecuted Christians and his presence with us at the Basilica unites us with our suffering brothers and sisters around the globe,” said Father Edward Hathaway, Rector of the Basilica of Saint Mary. “We should be grateful for the religious liberty we enjoy in our nation and never take it for granted, as even here it has been threatened.”

Archbishop Warda was ordained a priest in 1993 and was consecrated as Archbishop of Ebril in 2010.

View a photo gallery from the Basilica of Saint Mary’s Votive Mass for Persecuted Christians here.

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