2 Mar 2015

From Bishop Tobin of Providence RI – A Call to Month of Prayer and Sacrifice for Persecuted Christians Around the World

In a letter issued this morning by Bishop Thomas Tobin of the diocese of Providence in the USA:

March 2, 2015
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. . . . If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (Cf: I Cor 12: 12-26)
These words of St. Paul come quickly to mind these days as we witness the unimaginable suffering that our fellow Christians are enduring around the world – in Iraq and Syria, and in Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea and many other places as well. Every day, it seems, we hear new reports about Christians having their churches, schools and religious artifacts destroyed; we hear about the personal attacks – Christians being kidnapped, raped, tortured, crucified and beheaded, precisely and solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
These reports lead us to wonder how one human being could inflict such suffering and pain on another. We are tempted to give into anger, discouragement, fear and revenge. But while we rightly long for justice upon those who perpetrate these atrocities, our Christian Faith also calls us to hope, charity and prayer for those who suffer. As St. Paul teaches, “If one part of the body suffers, all the parts of the body suffer with it.”
With the hope of promoting our awareness of the suffering of our fellow Christians around the world, and to express our spiritual solidarity with them, I am writing to invite all the members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Providence to undertake a Month of Prayer and Sacrifice for Persecuted Christians. This month coincides approximately with the remainder of the Lenten Season when we prepare to share in the Lord’s suffering and death. We should understand that the Passion of Christ, the Suffering Servant of God, is being lived-out today in the cruel suffering visited upon our brothers and sisters.
I invite all the members of the Church to undertake some personal acts of prayer, sacrifice or charity for our suffering brothers and sisters. Perhaps you could dedicate the Lenten practices you have already begun to this specific intention. Perhaps you could undertake additional prayer, sacrifice or good works for this intention.
I invite our pastors to promote this intention in their parish communities. Some suggestions you might consider:
  • Priests are free to offer Holy Mass in their parish communities using the liturgical texts designated “For Persecuted Christians” found in the Roman Missal on any day other than the days of Holy Week, Lenten Sundays or solemnities.
  • Petitions for Persecuted Christians could be added regularly to the General Intercessions.
  • The Hail Mary, or the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, or the Prayer of St. Francis, or another appropriate devotional prayer, might be used publicly immediately before or after Mass, or after the Post-Communion Prayer and before the Final Blessing and Dismissal.
  • The Stations of the Cross which most parishes pray during the Lenten Season might be offered for the intention of Persecuted Christians.
  • The parish might arrange a Holy Hour with Scripture Readings, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction for the intention of Persecuted Christians.
  • Members of the parish might be encouraged, individually or collectively, to undertake some specific act of penance or charity in spiritual solidarity with those who are suffering.
  • The spiritual meaning of the persecution of Christians could be discussed (in age appropriate ways) in our Catholic schools and programs of religious education, youth ministry, retreats, missions, and parish organizations.
These are only a few suggestions that individuals and parishes might consider during this time. There may well be others that are equally appropriate. In any event, the goal is to increase our awareness, our solidarity and our spiritual support for our suffering brothers and sisters who are frequently in the news these days, but, sadly, not always in our heart and mind.
Pope Francis has spoken frequently and eloquently about Persecuted Christians. Just this past Sunday, during his weekly Angelus Address, our Holy Father said: “The dramatic news from Syria and Iraq about violence, kidnapping of persons and harassment against Christians and other groups does not stop. We want to assure those involved in these situations that we do not forget them, but we are close to them and pray insistently that very quickly the intolerable brutality of which they are victims is put to an end.”
Brothers and sisters, my hope is that through our collective Month of Prayer and Sacrifice for Persecuted Christians, the Catholics of the Diocese of Providence will be counted among those who are standing with and praying for our suffering brothers and sisters around the world.
With my prayers that the remainder of the Lenten Season will be a time of special grace and peace for all, I remain,
Sincerely yours,
Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Providence

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