Your Eminences, Your Excellencies:
The Gospel of peace, love and brotherhood is under siege in many parts of the world especially in Iraq and Syria. Helpless and defenseless persons are victims of a brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we are invited by the same Gospel of brotherhood and peace to respond first and foremost by prayer accompanied by charity and solidarity
At the permanent Council meeting last September 2, it was unanimously resolved to declare September 14, 2014, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as National Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq and Syria.
We request the Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops to oblige all priests to celebrate all Masses that day for the special intentions of the persecuted Christians in Syria and Iraq.
In all our Masses on the feast of the Holy Cross let us unite ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who is our hope their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
Secondly, you are requested to call for a charity collection on September 14 for the victims in Iraq and Syria. It is Christ in Iraq and Syria who has been evicted from his home. Places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria from our own need.
The collections must be remitted to the CBCP Secretariat by September 30, 2014. We will immediately transmit the charity aid to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Iraq and Syria.
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, September 5, 2014.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
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