VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis likes to distinguish the difference between optimism and hope.
And he did so again during his morning homily when he called hope a “risky virtue” because, unlike faith and charity, he said it’s harder to see and understand. It may look riskier on the outside, but when you grab onto it, hope never disappoints, he said, “it’s for sure.”
I think understanding Pope Francis’ take on hope (“It is an anchor that one hurls toward the future, it’s what lets you pull on the line” and head in “the right direction” where God is waiting) is important for understanding how Christians in Iraq are able to maintain hope in the midst of tragedy.
Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul wrote a must-read piece this week called “Faith in the Time of Persecution” that appeared in the National Review Online. The 46-year-old archbishop, whose episcopal motto is “hope,” said hope needs to be linked to love and faith for it to hold.
By deepening our sense of what it means to be Christians, we discover ways to give meaning to this life of persecution and find the necessary strength to endure it. To know that we may be killed at any moment, at home, in the street, at work, and yet despite all this to retain a living and active faith — this is the true challenge.
The secret, he said, is to make sure faith isn’t abstract, that it’s truly lived in every minute and minutia of daily life.
And people who live in countries with greater security and religious freedom can help by doing the same: “embracing the life of faith in daily practice. For us the greatest gift is to know that our situation is helping others to live out their own faith with greater strength, joy, and fidelity,” he wrote.
“Help bring our situation to the notice of the world — you are our voice. Spiritually, you can help us by making our life and our suffering the stimulus for the promotion of unity among all Christians.
The most powerful thing you can do in response to our situation is to rediscover and forge unity — personally and as a community — and to work for the good of your own societies.
They are in great need of the witness of Christians who live out their faith with a strength and joy that can give others the courage of faith.”
– Archbishop Nona
Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the papal nuncio in Baghdad recently gave a great image that captures his feelings of hope for Iraq’s future. In a talk he gave in Fossano, northern Italy, Oct. 8, he said:
“When I look at the sky and try to count the stars that shine, I think how it’s the same sky that Abraham looked at, they’re the same stars that he tried to count, and that moves me.
The whole history of love between God and humanity began there! How can I think that God has forgotten that? I believe that for the Iraqi Christian the faith in God that moved Abraham, faith in his love, cannot be questioned.”
– Archbishop Lingua