Pope Francis: Christ Transforms Death Into the Dawn of New Life

The second day of Christmas — today — is St Stephen’s Day.

Why would the Church remember the first martyr, a Deacon who was stoned to death for his faith, in the middle of this most joyous season of the year?

I think that St Stephen’s martyrdom is a reminder to all of us that we are crowned with eternal life, but that crown has thorns. In this world, the peace and joy of Christmas are blunted by reminders of the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters, as well as the challenges to religious liberty and freedom of conscience here at home.

We no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in post Christian America. This is a fact we all need to absorb. The more you speak for Jesus, the more you will be attacked. Do not let that deter you from taking a stand for Christ. Remember that you are an immortal soul who wears the crown of eternal life. Know that whatever people may try to do to you, Our God will find a way to use it for the good of His Church.

Pope Francis spoke of this great hope that sustains us, as well as the sobering reality of present-day Christian persecution in his St Stephen’s Day homily. St Stephen was the first martyr. Christian martyrs of the 21st Century join him every day.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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Christian Persecution and Conversion in Nigeria

Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram. 

At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers. 

The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” 

Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that. 

From PRI The World:

Credit: Rowan Moore Gerety

Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.

All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.

At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one. 

In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.

Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.

The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.


Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’

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God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan. 

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames. 

From Catholic News Agency:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed. 

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.

Are Christian Bashers Bullying Us Into Silence About Christian Persecution?

NewsweekChristianPersecution The reluctance of predominately Christian countries to speak out is remarkable.

That quote comes from a February 2012 article in the National Review.

The article describes a PEW Research study which says that over 200 million Christians live in countries where they are persecuted. The article also states that over 100,000 Christians are murdered each year for their faith. 

After going through all these facts, the National Review author comments that the reluctance of predominantly Christian countries to speak out is remarkable. 

Is it remarkable? Or is it an obvious result of the harassment and repeated attacks people who speak out about Christian persecution are subjected to?

Are those who tacitly support the violent persecution of Christians able to silence those Christians’ supporters in the West by the simple methods of mocking, deriding and slandering them into silence?

I think the answer is yes.

Every time I write a post about Christian persecution, I get a flurry of nasties coming on here to claim that (1) It ain’t so, and (2) I’m both a moral and intellectual demagogue for claiming that it is so. I’ve had other bloggers dedicate posts on their blogs to attacks on my intellect and my compassion because I wrote about Christian persecution. I have had fellow travelers of those who murder, rape, batter, abduct and terrify Christians join around the virtual campfire to take shots at me.

What does this indicate — beyond the fact that some bloggers aren’t so crazy about Rebecca Hamilton? I think that it’s a small sampling of what awaits those who try to stand up for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.  As such, it offers an explanation as to why the silence about Christian persecution from the Christian West is not so remarkable after all.

My advice to anyone who wants to take a stand against the atrocities that Christians suffer in much of the world today is consider the source of the insults they may receive and go ahead and speak up. Criticisms which are designed to tacitly support mass murder are not worthy of either answers or serious consideration.

Persecuted Christians are Christ crucified, right in front of us.

The mob yelled “Crucify Him!” and Jesus’ friends ran away from Him on that day. They ran away naked in the night, denied they even knew Him and went into hiding while He was tortured and murdered. Only the women and one disciple went to the cross with Him.

Don’t let today’s descendants of that mob scare you into running away from Him. His Passion is happening again in the suffering of our brothers and sisters. Don’t miss your chance to be one of the faithful few who don’t run away.

From National Review Online:

Perhaps the gravest under-publicized atrocity in the world is the persecution of Christians. A comprehensive Pew Forum study last year found that Christians are persecuted in 131 countries containing 70 percent of the world’s population, out of 197 countries in the world (if Palestine, Taiwan, South Sudan, and the Vatican are included). Best estimates are that about 200 million Christians are in communities where they are persecuted. There is not the slightest question of the scale and barbarity of this persecution, and a little of it is adequately publicized. But this highlights the second half of the atrocity: the passivity and blasé indifference of most of the West’s media and governments.

It is not generally appreciated that over 100,000 Christians a year are murdered because of their faith. Because Christianity is, by a wide margin, the world’s largest religion, the leading religion in the traditionally most advanced areas of the world, and, despite its many fissures, the best organized, largely because of the relatively tight and authoritarian structure of the Roman Catholic Church, the West is not accustomed to thinking of Christians as a minority, much less a persecuted one.

… The reluctance of the leading predominantly Christian countries to speak out against these outrages is remarkable.

Nigerian Christians Want Peace, Not Vengeance

Nigerian Christians call for peace, not vengeance. They even talk of forgiveness. The Nigerian Christians I have corresponded with have — every single one of them — asked for prayer.

Our resolve to help them and stand by them must not falter. What that means — among other things — is that we must not allow ourselves to bullied into silence by personal attacks against us from those who want to turn a blind eye to Christian persecution. We must never allow them to divide us from other Christians.

We all stand in solidarity before the cross. We in the West are called to show that solidarity when it comes to the violent persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We need to lift up the witness of these martyred Christians and their families and friends for all the world to see.

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Christian Persecution: The Deadly Worldwide Plague

Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints. Psalm 116


Christian persecution is a deadly worldwide plague.

The evidence of massive, international Christian persecution is abundant.

What, exactly, causes some groups of people to be so vociferous and ugly in their denial of Christian persecution? What would cause someone to stoop to the level of personal attacks against those who speak of Christian persecution?

These attacks, which are often slanderous, are crude attempts to silence those who would speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Given what is happening, why would anyone do this?

I had a long talk about this with one of my sons a couple of weeks back, and he said something that I think is more pertinent than we would like to admit. People who do things like this are at one with the persecutors. 

What he meant by this was that those who try to silence people who speak out for persecuted Christians are fellow travelers and enablers of the persecutors themselves. There is nothing new under the sun, and that is especially true when we talk about the great evil of violent persecution of whole groups of people.

The persecutors could not act without their enforcers in the larger world demanding and coercing the silence of those who would speak against them. Evil, like cockroaches, needs darkness.

That’s why Hitler set up phony concentration camps to show the Red Cross. It is also why the Red Cross and the rest of the world bought it. No one seems to have questioned the rationale behind putting an entire population of people in concentration camps in the first place. Without that compliance, the lie would and could not have stood.

It’s also why I get attacked just about every time I publish a post about the persecution of Christians. Persecutors always have their apologists. They need the darkness of obfuscation to continue their deadly work.

It is painful to be attacked, but in this case, it is also an honor. I would far rather be the person who gets attacked for taking a stand against the persecution of Christians than the person who does the attacking. They are a sad lot.

I regard these slurs and jibes as small attacks on me for doing my best to follow Christ. I am a little shy about saying this, because what I am doing by writing posts about Christian persecution is such a small thing that it embarrasses me. But by attacking me for trying, however feebly, to follow Christ, these people are giving me the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, what I will say to those who go at me personally for trying to speak out about the persecution of Christians is thank you. I forgive you from my heart for your attempts to harm me personally and I pray for you daily.

However, what I say to them about their support for the persecutors is shame on you. To use a quote from the McCarthy hearings of long ago: Have you no decency?

Here are a few examples of Christian persecution:

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Congressional hearings on Christian Persecution.

Vatican Analyst Warns of Global War Against Christians

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John Allen, the respected Vatican analyst, digs into the issue of anti-Christian abuse around the world. 

“I don’t think it takes any religious convictions or confessional interests at all to see that defense of persecuted Christians deserves to be the world’s number one human rights priority,” Allen, a noted Vatican journalist and author, told CNA in an Oct. 2

I’m going to order the book and then review it here on Public Catholic. In the meantime, you can read more about it here

All Work for God Begins with Prayer

NewsweekChristianPersecution

I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.

I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.

And we will.

If we pray.

Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.

Why?

You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.

Why prayer?

I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.

The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?

I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.

I think that is why they ask for prayer.

That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.

Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.

The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.

Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.

Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.

I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.

All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.

Pope Francis Speaks About Church Bombing in Pakistan

This video is from last Sunday, after Taliban operatives bombed a Christian church service, killing at least 85 people and wounding 145 others.

It is easy to see how moved the Holy Father was by this.

God save these, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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