Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the International Affairs Department of the bishops’ conference, has issued a statement of solidarity for those who died in a fire at a wedding in Qaraqosh, a Christian town in the Nineveh Plains, Iraq.
On Tuesday (26th September) during a wedding with over 1000 people present, a fire ripped through the venue, al-Haitham Hall, following the letting off of fireworks, killing more than 100 people and leaving many more injured.
Bishop Lang said: “I was deeply saddened to hear the news of the fire at a wedding party in Qaraqosh. How cruel that a day of celebration and joy can lead to a day of such devastation and destruction. Especially in a community that recently showed the world how to offer unwavering hope and light in the darkest of days.
“I urge Catholics in England and Wales to join me in prayer for our sisters and brothers who have lost their lives, their families and loved ones, those who have been injured, and for all those helping the survivors.”
Bishop Lang’s comments echoed those of Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, who said the event has been “a tragedy for Syriac Catholics”.
He added: “A wedding celebration in the ancient Nineveh village of Qaraqosh has turned into a tragedy for Syriac Catholics… Patriarchs, bishops, and priests from all faiths gathered today in Qaraqosh to bury those who had perished.
“No words can adequately describe the mourning of those bringing their loved ones to their final resting places in their ancient land. What was to be a time of joy has now turned into a whole community into mourning and deep shock.”
Archbishop Warda said that the whole of Iraq has come together in mourning.
He said: “In this tragedy it has brought the people of Iraq together again with the Sunnis cancelling their celebrations of the birth of the Prophet Mohammad. We have statements of condolences and support from the Shia community with the Governments of Iraq and Kurdistan announcing 3 days of mourning.”