Rome, Italy, Oct 27, 2012 / 02:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien took possession of his titular church, St. Sebastian on the Palatine Hill, he called on Catholics to imitate Saint Sebastian's witness to the resurrection of Christ.
“The Sepulchre is empty, and whether in 3rd century Rome or 21st century suffering Christian Palestine, His followers are willing to stake their lives on the fact both of the empty tomb and of the living Christ,” the cardinal proclaimed in his homily for the Oct. 25 Mass.
Cardinal O'Brien was elevated to the cardinalate on Feb. 18, and appointed cardinal-deacon of St. Sebastian on the Palatine Hill. He serves as the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which is charged with supporting the Church in the Holy Land.
“I've been asked by the Holy Father to support the Christian works in the Holy Land,” the cardinal explained Oct. 25 to CNA.
“That will be one of my roles, to encourage all around the world, men and women to join the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and give their attention to the needs of the land where Christ walked.”
He noted the many schools and charitable works for the poor that the Church in the Holy Land is responsible for, despite the challenges it faces.
“Employment is difficult, travel is difficult, there are many restrictions placed on Christians in daily life and in worship,” he said.
Cardinal O'Brien said that in addition to the traditional lands of Palestine, Israel, and Jordan, for which the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is responsible, the Vatican has recently asked them to take responsibility for Egypt and Lebanon as well.
The cardinal speculated that this request was because “the changes since the Arab Spring have brought great pressures on the Churches in those lands, and they need all the support and encouragement they can get.”
“For many Christians the Arab Spring is turning into a winter's blizzard, where there are recriminations, violence, extremism, and so much of it is directed at the minority Christians.”
“We as the Catholic Church and our fellow Christians have to be sure that the world knows and that the powers that be there know that our Christian community has strong support and encouragement and we will do all we can to deliver what they need for a fuller practice of their faith.”
Cardinal O'Brien said “the main goal of membership in the Order is personal sanctification – holiness. Only if one takes that seriously will one be effective and productive in supporting the charitable works in the Holy Land.”
“It is through prayer, pilgrimages, and financial contributions that we can keep alive the Christian spirit and Christian charity in the Holy Land as it has been going on for 2 millenia.”
Cardinals, who are almost all bishops, are divided into three groups: cardinal-bishops, -priests, and -deacons. Each cardinal is assigned a titular church in Rome, and St. Sebastian on the Palatine Hill was the titular church of the previous Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Cardinal John P. Foley.
The Mass said by the cardinal was a votive Mass in honor of Our Lady Queen of Palestine. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal was in attendance, as were some 60 Knights and Ladies of the order.
Prior to being named the Order's Grand Master, Cardinal O'Brien served as Archbishop of the U.S. Military Ordinariate and then of the Baltimore archdiocese.