The Prince of Wales today, Thursday 17 December, met with Christians from the Middle East at an Advent reception, hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Archbishop’s House in London.
Representatives from the Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Catholic Melkite Churches were present. The Prince also met guests and representatives from charities including Iraqi Christians in Need, Friends of the Holy Land, Aid to the Church in Need and Jesuit Refugee Service. The gathering heard a choral piece by the Chaldean Church’s adult choir and a choral piece by the Chaldean Church’s children’s choir. The event concluded with intercessory prayers for Christians and other minorities suffering persecution in the Middle-East.
The Prince of Wales told the gathering of his visits to the region and the testimonies he had heard from those suffering as a result of the violence.
“At this traditional time of prayer and reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation, it seems to me vital that we pause for more than a moment to think about the plight of Christians in the lands where the Word was actually “made flesh and dwelt among us”, he said.
“This is what makes the plight of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ so especially heart-breaking. Their suffering is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth… Consequently, the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure that the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations – quite apart from doing all we can to provide practical support to those who are persecuted.
“I could not be more heartened, therefore, to witness at first-hand the way in which each of your church communities is continuing to live the faith of your Fathers. By protecting the wisdom which has been handed down to you, you are doing your utmost to ensure that there is a future for your children and grandchildren.”
Cardinal Nichols called for prayers for all those suffering as a result of the continuing conflicts and violence across the Middle East. He recognised the suffering of Muslims, Yazidis and all those slaughtered for their faith, caught up in violence or driven from their homes in the continuing conflicts. However, at this time of Christmas and in this country he said there should be a particular concern for those who suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.
The Cardinal also thanked the Prince of Wales for his leadership and insistence in this matter at a time when there was a danger in the UK of losing sight of the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society.
“As a society we strive to offer respect to all people, but forget that such respect is due because of the God-given dignity of every human being. We rejoice in the compassion and generosity which characterise this country, but we may fail to remember that they are rooted in Biblical imperatives, just as is our administration of justice. Our tolerance and readiness to make space for each other has its roots in the imperative to forgive those who may offend us. And the trust needed for so many of our transactions is ultimately rooted in the fact that we have one Heavenly Father and that in Him we are brothers and sisters. In nurturing these practical values by which our society strives to live we do well to recognise that our Christian heritage as a huge and powerful resource.”