By Murcadha O Flaherty
Westminister’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols and a bishop from Iraq came together in central London to bless a crucifix found in the rubble left behind by Daesh (ISIS) in the ancient Nineveh Plains.
At the meeting, in Archbishop’s House, Westminster, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil described how the crucifix had been discovered intact by Stephen Rasche, his chief counsel and projects’ coordinator Mr Rasche spotted it half-buried outside St George’s Church, in Baqofah village, near the Iraqi town of Alqosh.
The archbishop visited the UK at the invitation of Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity which facilitated the loan of the crucifix to a March 2017 exhibition of crosses displayed in Westminster Cathedral by curator Lucien de Guise. The blessing ceremony came as part of a week-long series of events for the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop, which included a private meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales in central London.
(Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, northern Iraq and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster holding a crucifix from Baqofah, in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains © Aid to the Church in Need)
The archbishop was in the UK to raise awareness of the Return to the Roots programme, a scheme part-sponsored by ACN, enabling thousands of Christian families to return home to Nineveh, following the expulsion of Daesh from the region in November. Earlier this month, an olive tree-planting ceremony was held to mark the beginning of construction of 105 homes in Nineveh Christian-majority towns Karamlesh, Qaraqosh and Bartella. A survey by Aid to the Church in Need showed that nearly 13,000 homes needed to be built.
In meetings and interviews, Archbishop Warda said home repairs were a priority in the nine Christian towns and villages affected, necessitating a delay in refurbishment of the 300 churches and chapels damaged and destroyed during the Daesh occupation of Nineveh. Archbishop Warda is a member of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee overseeing the Return to the Roots scheme as well as a key project partner for Aid to the Church in Need’s emergency work for the 100,000 displaced people in his Erbil archdiocese and elsewhere in Kurdish northern Iraq.
In a message to ACN benefactors, he said: “Thank you very much for the help you have given to us in Erbil for your brothers and sisters from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. It is because of your help that we still have Christians in Iraq. It is because of your help that we still have Christian families able to live in decent houses, getting proper medical help and much-needed food packages.”
ACN is providing food, shelter, medicine and schooling for Christian families and others being cared for in Archbishop Warda’s diocese.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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