France, Austria, Italy

France: 1.000 letters for Eastern Christians"Be near us, pray for us. We need your brotherly, moral support". With these words, past November 4, a few days after the massacre at the Syrian-Catholic church in Baghdad, Iraqi bishops addressed their French confreres gathered in Lourdes for their plenary meeting. Three students from Lyon set up the website "1000 lettres pour nos frères d’Orient" (http://1000lettres.wordpress.com) and launched the initiative consisting in sending letters of solidarity and support, acting as prayer commitments for Iraqi Christians, to the Latin archbishopric in Baghdad. The text of the letter (that can be downloaded from the website) is the following: "Dear Christian brothers, we have heard your call, with much sadness we acknowledged the tragic events in Baghdad’s Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral. To you we assure our heartfelt friendship, support and prayers, in union with out Muslim brothers. We intend to do our utmost to ensure that the media covers your situation and that wide-ranging acknowledgement brings a firm condemnation of these acts of violence. You are members of the suffering Church, and through the communion of saints, we are suffering with you. Be strong Eastern brothers! Your strength and your hope is a remarkable witness of faith for each one of us. Be strong in the faith, ‘Indeed, you are our glory and our joy’ (1Tes 2: 20)". Messages of support to the initiatives were sent by the "Entraide" association, by the delegation of Dominicans to the United Nations and by the Maronite archbishop of Damascus, Msgr. Samir Nassar. Individuals, groups, and associations, with children’s drawings if possible, should send the letters to: Archevêché latin – P.O. Box 35130 – Hay Al-Wahda, Mahallat 904, rue 8, Imm. 44, 12906 Baghdad, Iraq. Austria: the bishops against anti-Christian violenceOn November 18 the plenary assembly of the bishops’ Conference closed in the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz. The bishops led by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, convened for the first time in Heiligenkreuz to discuss social policy issues, abuse, and persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The theme has gained topical relevance to the light of the synod that recently closed in Rome, and with the escalation of attacks against Christians in Iraq and in other areas of the world. "I expect a clear distancing of Muslims from the acts of violence committed against Christians", said cardinal Schönborn, shortly before the opening of the assembly. His Eminence said he hopes that the Austrian government will rapidly intervene "just like France" and Italy did to receive the victims, and appealed to the Muslim religious leaders: "I expect them to clearly state that acts of violence are incompatible with the Koran and with religion". On November 13 some 3000 Christians of Iraqi origin from different confessions took part in a solidarity march with Iraqi Christians in Vienna. Participants included the auxiliary bishops of Vienna Msgr. Franz Scharl and Msgr. Andreas Laun, along with the president of the ‘Pro-Orient" organization Hans Marte. In a message read during the demonstration, the Viennese communities of the Chaldean Catholic Church recalled that "attacks on Christian citizens, and to Christian Church priests and bishops are unending. The Iraqi government and the coalition troops have been witnessing such atrocities. Nonetheless – they denounce – efficient security measures have not yet not taken". Demonstrators urged Austrian authorities to show their solidarity towards Christians in Iraq, supporting them in their struggle for survival. Italy: November 21 in prayer for Iraq On Sunday November 21, prayers will be said for persecuted Christians in Iraq and for their persecutors in all Italian parishes and dioceses, announced a few days ago CEI president cardinal Angelo Bagnasco during the press conference for the conclusion of the 62nd general assembly of Italian bishops held in Assisi. The decision was welcomed by the Chaldean patriarchal vicar of Baghdad, Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, who conveyed his "heartfelt gratitude to the Italian Church, in the person of cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. The decision to call a day of prayer for persecuted Iraqi Christians, and also for our persecutors, fills our heart with joy. It is a sign of the vicinity of Italian dioceses, that have conveyed their solidarity on several occasions. We pray to the Lord to strengthen the Italian Church ever more".

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