FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community of Sant’Egidio
Vito Nicastro, Ph.D.
Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
January 23, 2014
Unprecedented Array to Unite Around Modern Martyrs January 25th At 2pm, Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Boston
Boston, MA – Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Leaders of the Orthodox, Protestant, and Historic Black Churches will join in remembrance and solidarity around the Christians who have fallen before recent religious persecution globally. They will take up the call of Pope John Paul II to remember that more Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the other nineteen centuries combined. Last year saw twice as many as the year before.
It is a call of unity. The Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has partnered with the Community of Sant’Egidio to open this worldwide event dramatically in Boston. Seated at the high altar will be representatives of Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, and Black Churches. Honored Clergy will represent churches as diverse as:
Ethnic Apostolates: Korean, Ugandan, Kenyan, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Nigerian, Chaldean, Italian, Brazilian, Argentinian, French, Haitian, Colombian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Indian, and more.
Catholic Churches and Groups: Maronite, Melkite, Syro-Malabar, Ethiopian/Eritrean/Egyptian Ge'ez-Rite Catholic, Boston College, Focolare, Chemin Neuf, Catholic Alpha, Sisters of St. Joseph, Redemptorists, Assumptionists, Office for Religious Education, many parishes including St. John the Baptist in Peabody, St. Julia in Weston, Blessed Mother Teresa in Dorchester, and many more.
Orthodox Churches: Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, Romanian Orthodox, Antiochian, and more.
Oriental Orthodox Churches: Coptic Orthodox Church including Hegoumen Moussa up to 100 faithful; Armenian Apostolic; Malankara Orthodox Syrians, and more.
Mainline Protestant Churches: Mass Council of Churches, plus Presbyterian (driving all the way from Orleans!), UCC, Episcopal, Community of Jesus, United Methodists- including Sudbury United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, and more.
Evangelical Churches and Groups: Historic Black Churches, Pentecostal, Evangelical: Belonging House, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 10 Days, Emmanuel Gospel Center, Alpha New England, Gordon College.
Many other delegations are also attending.
This is by far the Broadest Range of Christian leaders assembled for this Martyrs’ Prayer Service. Deliberately it has been placed in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25.
It is a call of solidarity. It recognizes that many of our brothers and sisters around the world live not just under persecution for their Christian faith but give their lives for it. As the Body of Christ in Boston, we stand with them. And not all of them are continents away. Many of the participants Saturday will come from Egypt, where they endured seventy church-burnings last year—in a single day. Others will come from Syria, Iraq, and more. Their endurance is a triumph of witness for what is truly precious. It calls us to prize our faith, to share it, to unite, and to honor them. All are invited.
In a moment of renewed openness to dialogue and ecumenism, Christians are seeking ways to be more united. The martyrdom of Christians knows no denominations and draws us closer together. Pope Francis refers to this unity among Christians as an ecumenism of blood: “In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood…” We are joined as one people of faith around the memory of the Martyrs and see it as a strong call to live out our faith in close cooperation and friendship across denominations.
The Prayer for the Martyrs invites all to remember the men and women who did not give in to threats of violence, people who were not afraid of caring for those entrusted to them. It is out of love for the Christian faith and for those they served that they lived as they did, in a generous, daring and often hidden way. They were witnesses to joy even in the midst of despair. They were witnesses to hope even in the midst of darkness.
Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Evangelicals are called to follow the example of Jesus who was moved with compassion for those who suffer. There are those who suffer greatly for their faith and those who suffer daily in extreme poverty. We need to re-sensitize our hearts and be touched by how people are living each day. The witness of the martyrs teaches us to care and reach out to those who suffer even if it costs us some time, money and energy. In front of the memory of the martyrs, we find that we cannot cling so closely to ourselves when we look at these radiant lives that gave everything. The martyrs are our friends and teachers in living a life full of love and without boundaries. Their lives have changed the world and can change us.
The Community of Sant’Egidio is a movement of lay people dedicated to living out the Gospel through prayer, solidarity with the poor and service to peace. www.santegidio.org
The Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs serves the mission of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to promote unity among Christians, and understanding and cooperation among members of all religions. www.bostoncatholic.org/EandIAffairs.aspx