Young priest returns home to bless his village

  • Written by:

ACN News: Thursday, 6th April 2017 – IRAQ
With pictures (© Aid to the Church in Need): 0406_1 Father Martin Banni returning with the Blessed Sacrament to St Addai’s Church in Karamlesh, Iraq_Spring 2017; 0406_2 Father Martin Banni addressing the faithful at his ordination at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ankawa, Erbil, Iraq Sept 2016; 0406_3 Father Martin Banni and family including his sister Miriam celebrating his ordination in Erbil, Iraq Sept 2016.

By Murcadha O Flaherty

A NEWLY ORDINATED priest has described returning with the Blessed Sacrament to his home village in northern Iraq after it was finally liberated from Daesh (ISIS) extremists.
Father Martin Banni, who as a seminarian in August 2014 fled Karamlesh holding the Blessed Sacrament, reported to Aid to the Church in Need how he had just gone back to the village in the Nineveh Plains, carrying the Sacred Host.
Father Banni, who is in his mid-20s, described his joy at the home-coming to the village’s St Addai’s Church.
In a message to the Catholic charity’s John Pontifex, who met the young man in October 2014 after he had been displaced to Kurdish northern Iraq, Father Banni stated: “When we last spoke, I told you about how I was the last to leave Karamlesh in the Nineveh Plains with the Blessed Sacrament in my hands.
“Daesh were about to occupy our village – we were forced to leave.
“Now I wish to tell you about my return to Karamlesh – I was the first priest to bless the people in the church in my home village in northern Iraq.”
Speaking of the Nineveh Plains, which had been a centre of Christianity for 1,800 years, he added: “I told you I would stay in Iraq to serve my people and our Church. Now, I am delighted to be celebrating Holy Mass here in Iraq.”
Despite the threat of Daesh, he decided not to go to the USA where his family have settled, and instead stayed in St Peter’s Seminary in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, northern Iraq, where he completed his studies for the priesthood.
He admitted that he found leaving Karamlesh distressing.
As Daesh advanced on the village on the night of 6th August 2014, he was driven away at high speed. With him was St Addai’s parish priest Father Thabet.
Father Banni recalled the support of family and friends of all ages who came to his ordination to the priesthood last September.
Also present was Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need UK.
Acknowledging ongoing security concerns in Nineveh and massive bomb clearance and reconstruction costs, Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “I know from my meetings in northern Iraq how much a return to their homes would mean for these Christians who fled such appalling terror.”
An ACN survey of the displaced people showed 41 percent definitely wanted to go back, a figure which rises to 87 percent to include those willing to return subject to assurances over security and other core concerns.
Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “Some families have already returned to their homes but, with support, nine families out of every 10 would return to their homes if conditions were right and continue to help each other within their communities.”
He added: “It is vital that ACN assist the Christian community – to assist religious Sisters and priests so that they can guide their parishioners.
“ACN and others are being called upon to support Christians and priests like Father Martin in Iraq now – they are relying on us.”



Editor’s Notes

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 and Press & Digital Media Officer Murcadha O Flaherty on 020 8661 5175