NEW HAVEN, Conn., April 15, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Connecticut Catholics – including high school students – are coming to the aid of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in partnership with the Knights of Columbus. This work was highlighted Sunday at a special Mass in New Haven offered by Archbishop Leonard Blair.
The effort by the Archdiocese of Hartford has included the participation of Catholic students selling olive wood "solidarity crosses" made in the Middle East and supplied by the Knights. The money raised will be will be used to help assist Christian towns in Iraq and Syria that were devastated by ISIS and fighting involving the terrorist group.
"We are very grateful to the Archdiocese of Hartford for its support of those who have been persecuted for their faith in the Middle East, and we have been truly inspired by these high school students who have taken time and energy to learn about this important issue and raise money to help," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "We hope this program will be the first of many of across the U.S. and Canada."
Sunday's Mass was held at St. Mary's Church in New Haven. The Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Canada Bawai Soro was the homilist and also proclaimed the gospel in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Bishop Soro is a native of Iraq who has ministered for many years to the Iraqi Christian community in North America.
Bishop Soro thanked the students, other Connecticut Catholics and the Knights of Columbus, and explained that the Christians of Iraq would not have survived the past four years without the help of fellow Christians from around the world.
"The message that I have for the Knights of Columbus is one of admiration, that you people are amazing. We thank you," the bishop said. "We are encouraged by your model, please continue. I know many of the good things that have been done have been influencing us and I know that what you see publicly is only ten percent of the things that the Knights have been doing. We pray that this will continue and God bless you all."
The Mass was followed by a reception and a question-and-answer session that included Stephen Rasche, counsel to the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese in Erbil, Iraq, Archbishop Blair and Bishop Soro, and Andrew Walther, vice president for communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus.
"Our mission is to preserve the word and example of Christ in the Middle East, and this we are committed to do, whatever the cost," said Rasche. "In this, we are grateful for the support and solidarity we have received from our brothers and sisters in Connecticut and elsewhere."
As part of its advocacy on behalf of persecuted religious minorities in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region, the Knights led a major campaign urging the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State to declare ISIS' terrorism an act of genocide. To support the cause, it produced a nearly 300-page report on ISIS' atrocities against Christians that was used by the department to support its 2016 finding that a genocide was, indeed, taking place.
In addition, the K. of C. has urged the U.S. government to ensure that communities targeted for genocide not be overlooked in its aid programs and applauded Vice President Mike Pence's announcement last fall that the Trump administration would begin providing aid directly to religious minorities impacted by ISIS' genocide.
About the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization founded in 1882 to assist working class and immigrant Catholics in the United States. Today, the K of C's nearly 2 million members and 15,000 councils (including 300 college councils) support a broad spectrum of charitable causes locally, as well as internationally. In 2017, the Knights of Columbus gave $177,500,673 to charity, and its members donated 75,112,694 hours of volunteer time.
The Knights of Columbus Insurance business allows the Order to continue to protect the families of its members by offering life insurance, long-term care insurance and annuity products. It has received an A+ (Superior) rating from A.M. Best and currently has more than $60 billion of life insurance policies in force.
To learn more about the Knights of Columbus charitable initiatives, membership, insurance and the legacy of its founder, Venerable Father Michael McGivney, visit www.kofc.org.
SOURCE Knights of Columbus