(NYTIMES) — Early on Wednesday morning, the sonorous sound of Aramaic rose from the pews of Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church here. More than a hundred worshipers had gathered well before the 10 a.m. Mass, and they were already chanting morning prayers in the language of their Lord.
Above the altar and crucifix, light flooded through a stained-glass window that depicted Mary and the baby Jesus standing on fertile fields threaded by two rivers. As everyone present surely knew, these were the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq, the nation from which these Chaldean Catholics had begun coming to Detroit more than a century ago.
As it happened, one day earlier, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had released a video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist. Two weeks earlier, the Islamist militants of ISIS had reported a similar murder of another American reporter, James Foley.
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So when Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat walked quietly from a side door into Mother of God’s sanctuary, it was with a grim sense that maybe now, finally, he and his flock would no longer be howling into the abyss. As he had written last month in an open letter that was posted in the church’s lobby, “We wish to scream, but there are no ears that wish to hear.”