Family and friends of those who died in Baghdad's church attack gather for memorial Mass in west London
The family and friends of victims of the Iraqi cathedral massacre paid an emotional tribute to lost loved ones at a packed memorial service in London last week.
People broke down in tears when they saw images of the aftermath of the tragedy projected on a screen during the Mass on Friday in Holy Trinity Catholic church, Brook Green.
Present were the close family and friends of at least 20 of the 52 or more who died in the attack which took place during Sunday Mass at Baghdad’s Syrian Catholic cathedral.
A focal point for prayer and reflection during the memorial Mass were the cross-shaped wreaths which were placed down the main aisle of the church, each bearing the name of one of the victims.
During the service the names of all the deceased were read out.
Recalling the October 31 attack, Fr Nizar Semaan, the London-based chaplain to Syrian Catholics in Britain, appealed to the governments of Iraq and the West to step up action to protect Christians.
Calling for the culprits to be brought to justice, he said in his homily: “No one can be silent in the face of this massacre. We appeal to all who believe in human rights to stand against this massacre and do more not just by words but by practical acts.”
Fr Semaan praised Christians determined to stay in Iraq, saying that their continued presence was “proclaiming victory” over terrorist organisations.
He added: “The Christians in Iraq are the light which illuminates the souls, the minds and the hearts of all Iraqi people.
“Killing Christians will not extinguish the lamp. Their tears will be the oil which keeps this light alive.”
Fr Semaan urged Arab and Islamic leaders to do more to combat extremism.
His homily at the Mass, which was attended by local Muslim leaders, was followed by loud applause and a standing ovation.
Earlier Auxiliary Bishop Alan Hopes of Westminster said: “The Christian community [in Iraq] is now in danger of becoming extinct through intimidation and militant activity which is causing so many Christians to leave.
“In what happened [in the Baghdad cathedral], we have seen evil at work in our world – real evil. But we know that evil has already been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” the bishop said.
An estimated 600 people were present at the service, which was attended by staff from Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians.