"God gave us the grace to overcome ISIS," Warda said.
Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio, and Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri, Nigeria were among the distinguished guests at the basilica event organized by Aid to the Church in Need.
"We must not hide from suffering when it comes. We must firmly address it in faith, love, and prayer," Warda said.
The Iraqi bishop shared stories and statistics of the suffering that his people have endured. "Since 2003, 61 churches and shrines were burned, destroyed, or harmed. Over 55,000 homes seized, 150,000 Christians were displaced in 2015. Countless Christians have been kidnapped or murdered," he said.
"The Church in Iraq is a martyr Church," Warda said. "Our persecution continues to make us a church of peace and reconciliation, transforming us into an apostolic, missionary church."
"Persecution brings us closer to Jesus … We are called upon to remain faithful to the Gospel" through "an invitation to the cross," he continued.
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Throughout the prayer vigil, the names of 20 martyrs killed between 2017 and 2018 were read aloud. Priests were among the martyrs from Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Venezuela, Madagascar, and Kenya.
Those gathered in the basilica prayed for Catholics who remain missing since being kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Mali.
Specific attacks against large groups of Christians in Egypt, Pakistan, Central African Republic, and other countries were also remembered. On November 15, 42 people died in an attack on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, Central African Republic.