By Murcadha O Flaherty
WALKING up to 175 miles across north-west England and Wales, staff from a leading Catholic charity visited five cathedrals over five months to raise awareness of the suffering Church in Iraq.
Finishing at Shrewsbury Cathedral last Saturday (15th September), Aid to the Church in Need’s North West Manager, Dr Caroline Hull and Bridget Teasdale, the region’s Schools and Events Coordinator completed the five cathedral walks to help Christians persecuted for their faith in the Middle East.
Thanking ACN benefactors for their support, Caroline said: “By applying St Augustine’s adage ‘Solvitur Ambulando – it is solved by walking’, the charity’s cathedral walks for Iraq have now raised just over £6,000 in sponsorship.
“We are so grateful for their prayers and for those of all who have supported us.”
She added: “All money raised by the walk will go towards the charity’s work rebuilding Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains where families were driven out by Daesh (ISIS).
“ACN has already provided more than £6.1 million (€6.9 million) towards reconstruction – and by this July 45 percent of Christian families who fled the extremists in the summer of 2014 had returned home.”
Having walked through sunshine and rain, Bridget said: “The best bit about our walks was meeting bishops, priests, Sisters and lay people – they all welcomed us into their cathedrals, parishes and even their homes.”
She added: “Our time walking has led me to reflect upon and pray about the Christian people of Iraq… whenever I was feeling tired, or too warm, hungry or thirsty, whilst walking – I called to mind those in Iraq, and united my small struggle to theirs, through the power of prayer.”
Thousands of Iraqi Christians were driven out of Mosul and the surrounding region by Daesh had to walk more than 50 miles to Erbil to find safety.
Following the blessing of their boots by Bishop Paul Swarbrick of Lancaster in May, the pair walked 65 miles from Lancaster Cathedral to Salford Cathedral, the final few miles with Bishop John Arnold of Salford.
In June, they walked 35 miles from Salford to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
With Archbishop Malcolm McMahon’s blessing, they walked with ACN benefactors Tony and Lynne Glynn in July from Liverpool to Wrexham Cathedral in north Wales.
On the final leg to Shrewsbury last Saturday, Bishop Peter Brignall of Wrexham accompanied them as far as the border with England.
Caroline said: “We’ve received wonderful hospitality from parishes, religious communities and ACN benefactors along our 175 mile journey.
“Our final night was spent with the Poor Clares in Ellesmere where Mother Carmel and the community provided us with warm beds, fantastic meals and generous sponsorship as well.”
Arriving at Shrewsbury early on Saturday evening they received drinks and jam doughnuts.
Describing their “amazing and enriching experience”, Caroline said: “Bridget and I have walked many miles together, through so many different landscapes with bishops, family and ACN benefactors.
“At the very heart of our experience has been a deep desire to show compassion for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. They truly need our prayers and our support.”
She added: “Walking ACN’s North West Cathedral Walks for Iraq’s Christians has been fantastic… many thanks to all those who prayed with us, walked with us and sponsored us.”
• To support ACN’s NW Cathedral Walks for Iraq, please go to JustGiving: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walks4iraq
• ACN’s Annual North-West Benefactors’ Mass will be held on 6th October at Shrewsbury Cathedral, SY1 1TE, followed by refreshments. Mass starts at 12am.
• An Afternoon of Talks on the Suffering Church, focusing on Christians in Iraq and Pakistan will take place at St Columba’s, Plas Newton Lane, Chester, CH2 1SA on 7th October at 3pm.
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.
Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.
Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.
For more information, contact Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167 or ACN Press and Digital Media Officer Murcadha O Flaherty on 020 8661 5175.