By Jim Ressler, Grand Knight
Kevin Flanagan, chairman of the Knights of Columbus council 9981 adopted parish – the Chaldean Catholic church of the Assumption of Mary in Baghdad, Iraq, has scheduled the weekend of Feb. 15-16 to support our adopted parish in Iraq, with pastor Fr. Schroeder's support. The parish will host the icon Mary Help of Persecuted Christians in the Marian chapel at all masses Feb. 15-16, distribute prayer cards with Prayer for Persecuted Christians in the pews, ask the priests will make an announcement to the people requesting prayer and support at all masses.
Since the explosion of ISIS across Iraq in 2014, Christians in the Middle East live in uncertainty and instability. While hundreds of thousands of Christians were forced to flee Iraq, when ISIS was driven out in 2018, the Catholics who stayed and those who returned are rebuilding, critical to the survival of Christianity in Iraq. In 2018, the Knights of Columbus Supreme council launched an initiative to preserve a Christian presence and to help parishes return and rebuild in the Middle East. That’s why our council decided to adopt a parish in the Middle East and was assigned the Chaldean Catholic church Assumption of Mary in Baghdad. We have been asked to meet a pledge of $2500 in two years. Our council has already donated $1000 from our charitable giving funds in 2019-20.
This archdiocese has been devastated by the Gulf War, the War in Iraq, and most recently by ISIS. In 1990, the archdiocese of Baghdad had a population of 481,000 Catholics with 24 diocesan priests supporting 30 parishes. 25 years later, in 2015 the archdiocese of Baghdad was reduced to 150,000 Catholics, 19 priests and 18 parishes. In addition to the ongoing support of specific Catholic parishes, the Knights of Columbus continues its work contributing toward the rebuilding efforts of Christian towns. For example, in Batnaya, home of St. Qyraqos Chaldean Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council is funding the restoration a Christian cemetery that was destroyed by ISIS.
Nationally, the Knights of Columbus pledged to raise $250,000 this fraternal year for churches in the Middle East covering 69 adopted parishes in Iraq. Pope Francis supports the initiative and blessed the The Mary Help of Persecuted Christians icon in November 2018.
A copy of the icon joined our council meeting with prayer on January 9, thanks to Jerry Lamoureux, district 54 deputy. With the help of Bill Davis, district 37 deputy, the icon returns to Incarnate Word on the support weekend to inspire our prayers for persecuted Christians and our adopted parish.
Our council raised over $4800 in 2016 in response to Supreme's call to aid Christian Refugees in the mid-east. At that time, we sold olive wood “Solidarity” crosses and prayer cards were distributed by the Knights of Columbus in exchange for a donation. The donations in 2016 were distributed to the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund and Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). For our adopted parish, we are appealing to our parish for their prayers and direct support of the Assumption of Mary parish in Baghdad. Our Chaldean Catholic brethren in Baghdad would appreciate our help and prayers while on the verge of civil war. More information on the Knights of Columbus support to persecuted Christians can be found at christiansatrisk.org.
Please provide your prayers and support for our adopted parish and all the Christians in the Middle East.