Today, Bishop William Murphy sent the following letter to all pastors in the diocese asking for prayers at Mass this weekend for the Coptic Christian Martyrs of Lebanon and continued support of the people in the Middle East and North Africa:

February 20, 2015

My dear brother priests:

The atrocities being inflicted on the populations of several countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to mount.  The growth of terrorism seems on the rise and Islamic terrorist groups, principally ISIS and Al Qaeda, continue to justify their brutal and barbaric actions by appeal to the Q’ran and to Islamic law.  With no prejudice toward the peaceful Muslim communities on Long Island and around the world, we all, Christian, Muslim and all men and women of good will, must be one in condemning these atrocities and standing as one in defense of religious minorities throughout the world and especially in the countries of Middle East and North Africa.

In light of this, as Pastor of this local Church, I am sending you the following intention that is to be used in the Prayer of the Faithful at all of the Masses on the First Sunday of Lent.

Commending to you, O Lord, the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs of Libya, we pray for an end to the hostilities and the violence against innocent people and religious  and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, beseeching your  gift of peace for all who are suffering, and a swift restoration of justice, harmony and freedom for all who have been the victims of  fanatical violence.  Protect them and all their families whose homes have been destroyed and lives placed in peril, we pray to the Lord.

Thursday evening I joined the Coptic Bishop David and the Coptic Church of New York at a Prayer Service at the Coptic Orthodox Church on Staten Island.  I assured them of our prayers and our solidarity with them and with all the victims of what the terrorists call Jihad.  As a local Church we continue to help the refugees of all faiths in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.  Catholic Near East Welfare Association, where I am one of the five Bishop Board Members, continues to serve refugees in welcome centers, schools and hospitals.  Our Diocese cooperates with the Holy See in sending money directly to Papal Representatives in those countries, sending whatever funds I can find to support the care they receive through their churches as well as through CRS.  Thanks to the Holy See, we were able a few years ago to work with the Nuncio in Syria who gained the release of the body of a local woman journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed by snipers while on assignment.

I want to thank all of you who have supported these and other efforts to aid the suffering.  However we need also to let the President and the elected officials of our government in Washington know that greater effort and more committed action must be exercised by our leaders in concert with the international community to bring an end to this violence and hatred and to restore hope and tranquility to peoples and nations in the Middle East.  True peace is ultimately a gift from God for which we will pray every day.  But God expects us, our nation’s leaders, along with all peace-loving peoples and nations, to be instruments of peace by rectifying injustice, strengthening bonds of friendship and guaranteeing that all peoples can live in peace and harmony.  May Mary Help of Christians watch over and protect all her children in the Middle East and North Africa.

+William Murphy

Bishop of Rockville Centre