Tuesday morning’s meeting of the synod of bishops on the Bible saw Cardinal Emmanuel Delly of Baghdad, Iraq and Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Lihn of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam speak about how their flocks remain faithful to the Word of God amidst persecution.
“I am a son of the land of Abraham, Iraq,” Cardinal Delly began as he spoke passionately about the seemingly impossible struggle to bring peace to his country. Saying that the Church has “tried everything to obtain peace and serenity for the country,” the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church described the situation as “disastrous and tragic” in some parts of Iraq.
“Life is a Calvary,” Cardinal said as he went through a litany of the dangers and fears his flock is subjected to, including kidnapping and extortion.
For Iraqi Christians, “To live the Word of God means to us to bear witness to it with the cost of our own lives,” the prelate said, as he recounted how numerous Christians had been kidnapped or in some cases murdered. In particular, he recalled Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Fr. Raghid Ganni, two other priests and six other young persons who were killed.
“Because of this, I beg of you to pray to the Lord Jesus, the Word of God, for us and with us, and to share our concerns, our hopes and the suffering of our wounded, so that the Word of God made flesh stays in His Church and with us as good news and support.”
Following Cardinal Emmanuel Delly’s words, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Lihn of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam took the floor to speak about how the Word of God sustains his flock in spite of Vietnam’s history of “hatred, ideological wars and discrimination.”
Nevertheless, the Vietnamese Christians remain “more convinced than ever that only in the Word of God can they persevere in love, joy, peace, communion and tolerance,” Bishop Nguyen said.
The Vietnamese bishop also related an interesting story to illustrate how “the Word of God continues to sustain the Church in Vietnam.”
Shortly after the canonization of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs in 1988, thousands of people belonging to various ethnic minorities converted to the Catholic faith en masse.
“The strange thing is,” Bishop Nguyen observed, “many of them admitted they had listened to a Protestant radio station in Manila, Philippines, but converted to Catholicism. Thus the Protestants sow and the Catholics reap. The Word of God, ringing out from afar and reaching their ears, became a source of hope for these people, who live among the mountains deprived of everything and without a future.”
Bishop Nguyen finished his remarks by saying that “as a Vietnamese Christian I would like to reiterate my conviction that amidst persecutions our greatest grace is faithfulness to the Word of God."