Archbishop of Westminster prays for Middle East Christians 'who suffer for their faith'

For many going to church is an act of life-risking bravery, he tells Christmas worshippers

The Archbishop of Westminster urged people to give "a special thought and prayer" to Christians around the world who suffer for their faith.

Speaking at Christmas midnight mass, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols told worshippers: "Christians are the most widely persecuted religious group in the world today and this evening we think especially of the Middle East, especially of Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

"As Prince Charles said last week: 'Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters'."

"We come to this Cathedral this evening freely and relatively easily, ready to give a simple act of witness to our faith. But for many going to church is an act of life-risking bravery. We thank them and seek to be inspired by their courageous faith."

He not only quotes the prince, whose original comments were made last week as he spent a day visiting the Coptic and Syrian Orthodox communities in Hertfordshire and London, but also Pope Francis in reflecting upon hope and tenderness.

The Archbishop said at "this pivotal moment we know how much healing we need".

He adds: "We know how much we need to repair and strengthen the bond of our universal brotherhood, our common humanity so that everywhere and always we see each other as a brother and a sister, children of a common Father who loves each one as much as every other and asks us to do likewise."

Recalling Pope Francis' words, God tells us to have hope, the Archbishop said.

"This is so important as of ourselves we can easily lose heart. But God always open doors for us, he never closes them. He opens the doors of compassion, mercy and forgiveness that we can lift up our heads again and go forward in hope of his unswerving love," he says.

God also speaks of tenderness, he noted, adding: "He says: 'do not be afraid of tenderness'. In the helpless of the babe we see God so close to us, in such precarious circumstances, asking us not only to trust ourselves to him but also to express ourselves to him with all the gentleness and tenderness that is in our hearts.

"This is the Lord of love who invites us into a relationship of love. And in all our loving, we show our own vulnerability and joy in the tenderness we have for each other. So too it is with the Lord, as this night makes so clear."

PA

 

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