An icon depicting the Blessed Mother dressed in the traditional garb of an Iraqi bride graces St. Michael Church in Manhattan.
The donated icon of Our Lady of Aradin, Aramaic for Eden, is the work of Iraqi Christian artist Mouthana Butres. The Syriac Catholic iconographer and refugee was driven from his home in Qaraqosh, as were other Christians there, by the Islamic State. Butres and his family are now refugees in Lebanon.
Father George Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s, blessed the icon and dedicated the parish’s Shrine for Persecuted Christians on June 12.
It is reported to be the first Catholic shrine of its kind.
Butres said he chose to present Mary in the traditional wedding dress of the Aradin area of Iraq “to represent that the Virgin Mary will always be a part of the Christians in Iraq and that she is the protector of Christians in Iraq and all the Middle East.”
He said that when faced with an ultimatum by Islamic State fighters, Iraq’s Christians gave up their land but refused to give up their faith.
An announcement in the bulletin of St. Michael’s said the parish is fortunate to have the first shrine sponsored by Father Benedict Kiely’s Nasarean organization and the Aradin Charitable Trust, to call attention to the plight of fellow Christians who are suffering persecution, particularly in the Middle East.
“I’ve been just so amazed at the response we’ve had,” Father Rutler told CNY on June 15, noting “a number of people coming to light candles.”
It is also a wake-up call, he said. “Many Catholics in our country are just kind of comfortable and they don’t want to recognize that the cross is at the heart of the faith.
“And while we have our minor complaints about life here, there are people dying for the faith, losing their homes, the refugees, for their love of Christ.”
Father Rutler said he is “very happy” that the shrine can be “here right in New York City, to remind people of the wonderful witness of these Christians.”
“We pray for them, but their prayers are all the more powerful as they pray for us to overcome indifference.”
—Catholic New York, CNS