Today 16 March, the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, the two Archbishops of Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke participated in the annual Saint Patrick’s Lecture reflecting on the ministry and legacy of our National Patron, Saint Patrick.
As part of this year’s event, Archbishop Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Erbil in Iraq, addressed the audience in a specially prepared video message for the event.
Archbishop Warda is Archbishop of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities which is now facing extinction. Archbishop Warda once lived in Ireland for two years, last visiting in 2011, where he spoke on the persecution of Christians in Iraq at Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre in Dundalk, Co Louth.
In his video, Archbishop Warda wished all a very blessed Saint Patrick’s Day and thanked the Irish for the hospitality and love shown to him in his time here. Archbishop Warda said he hoped to share with those present ‘the experience of faith in the land where Christians are persecuted’.
Archbishop Warda said, ‘I speak to you from Erbil, the province which received just under 25,000 Christian in 2014 who were persecuted for their faith.
‘The Christians in the region chose Christ and left with nothing but their clothes and arrived here at this cathedral, Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. So many of them were here around the altar; they made this place, a house of God, their home for many months before we could help them to live in a dignified way. But they kept with them the most valuable thing we have in life – Jesus Christ, our Christian faith.’
He continued, ‘Our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith have shown a great example of how to really hold on to Christ as the only person who gives them salvation. They left everything behind and when they arrived here, they were persecuted, full of sadness and anger, tired because of the long walk to reach here where they could live safely among their brother and sister Christians. They show an example of how to live in the love of Christ. With them we all, inside and outside of Iraq, have lived the commandments of God; a love of God with all our hearts and a love of neighbours.’
Archbishop Warda thanked the people of Ireland ‘for your prayers and commitments for you are the people who have helped us a lot in praying for persecuted Christians, raising awareness and sharing the faith.’
Alongside today’s lecture, Archbishop Eamon Martin will welcome His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, to celebrate the closing Mass for the Armagh Parish Novena to Saint Patrick, which takes place in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral today at 6.00pm. The theme of this year’s novena is ‘Remembering Patrick: a man of Faith’.
Later tonight at 9.00pm, Archbishops Martin and Clarke will welcome visitors for a torch-lit procession between the two Saint Patrick’s Cathedrals in Armagh. The procession will begin at the Church of Ireland cathedral with prayers led by Archbishop Clarke, and will conclude with prayers led by Archbishop Martin. Refreshments will be offered afterwards in Synod Hall, which is beside Archbishop Martin’s residence in Ara Coeli.
For more information please see www.armaghparish.net.