Yesterday Pope Francis speaking to the people in St. Peter’s Square said , “let us think of the many Christian brothers and sisters who suffer … Let us admire their courage and their witness. They are our brothers and sisters, who in many parts of the world suffer for being faithful to Jesus Christ. Let us extend our heartfelt and affectionate greetings to them.”
Last week Cardinal Dolan speaking to the American bishops said, “Brother bishops, our legitimate and ongoing struggles to protect our ‘first and most cherished freedom’ in the United States pale in comparison to the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) currently being walked by so many of our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, who are experiencing lethal persecution on a scale that defies belief. If our common membership in the mystical body of Christ is to mean anything, then their suffering must be ours as well.”
Blessed John Paul II said we are living in “a new age of martyrs.” It has been estimated that half of all Christian martyrs were killed in the 20th Century. More than 1 million people have already been killed because of their belief in Jesus . Others than Christians suffer persecution, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahais and other groups are also persecuted, but Christians are singled out more than others.
Christians in the Middle East are particularly vulnerable, those living in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Those living in the Far East, China, Pakistan, India and Indonesia have all suffered martyrdom as have many in Africa. Traditionally Christian nations like France and Canada are restricting the use of religious symbols and the wearing of religious garb. According to Pew Research, religious persecutions and government restrictions on religion are increasing each year.
St.Paul wrote, “God has so constructed the body …so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer.” (1 Cor 12:24ff)
We must guard and treasure our religious liberty in America but reach out to our brothers and sisters who regularly face harassment and even death because of their faith in Jesus.
Below is a link to Cardinal Dolan’s address:
Image Credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP on Flickr – This celebrated sculpture of St Cecilia (Martyr, 2nd Century), as she lay incorrupt in her tomb, when discovered in 1599 is by Maderno.