Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the faithful of the Diocese, together with the priests and deacons, and men and women in consecrated life:
Fifteen years ago this month two refugee families from Iraq settled in my parish in Hobart. They were members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, a community of Christians in communion with Rome with an ancient history in Mesopotamia. The families had fled from Saddam’s regime to Turkey, and had endured great hardships in refugee camps through bitter winters. Our parishioners received them warmly, they learnt English in record time, though in those days jobs were hard to find. The two families now live in Sydney as members of a big and thriving Chaldean parish with a bishop of their own rite, the older children married and all proud to be Aussies with the rest of us.
I have been thinking of them recently with the news of the kidnapping of Archbishop Paulus Rahou, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq and the murder of his driver and companions. A week ago we heard that the Archbishop himself had been killed.
We never knew each other but such is the bond of faith within the Catholic Church that the violent death of a brother bishop has its impact on the rest of us. We join with Pope Benedict XVI in expressing the hope that this tragic event will reinforce the commitment of the international community to bring real and lasting peace to Iraq.
I write these words of greeting for the Easter celebrations reminded by the Archbishop’s death of the big truths, the great facts, of this season. Everything is changed for us by the suffering of Jesus Christ, His dying, His burial, his being raised from the dead. The cycle of death and violence of which Archbishop Rahou was a victim cannot prevail, and men of violence in any age can never triumph. Just as my Iraqi friends enjoy years of a new life in Australia, the new life of Christ’s resurrection is what we are all created to enjoy everlastingly. That’s my Easter faith and hope; I believe it with all my heart and I share it with you as I wish you a very happy Easter.