Persecution, Suffering

Philadelphia, Pa., Mar 18, 2015 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia warned Tuesday that the United States will face increasing pressure to abandon its traditionally broad protections for religious liberty, though he encouraged Christians never to give up hope in God’s love.

Religious liberty, he said, “means much more than the freedom to believe whatever you like at home, and pray however you like in your church.”

“It means the right to preach, teach and worship in public and in private,” he said March 17. “It means a parent’s right to protect his or her children from harmful teaching. It means the right to engage the public square with moral debate and works of social ministry. It means the freedom to do all of this without negative interference from the government, direct or indirect, except within the limits of ‘just public order’.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput says Mass in Philadelphia's St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Sept. 7, 2014. Credit: Javier de la Flor/CNA.

The archbishop’s remarks came in his speech to Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he discussed Dignitatis humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom.

Archbishop Chaput evaluated the religious freedom situation in the U.S. as “good” compared to “almost anywhere else in the world.”

“Religious believers played a very big role in founding and building the country. Until recently, our laws have reflected that.  In many ways they still do.”

He noted that a “large majority” of Americans believe in God and identify as Christian, while religious practice is high.

“But that’s changing.  And the pace will quicken. More young people are disaffiliated from religion now than at any time in our country’s past. More stay away as they age. And many have no sense of the role that religious freedom has played in our nation’s life and culture.”

The archbishop said the current administration may be “the least friendly to religious freedom concerns in history.” This trend will continue in areas like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and public religious witness, as well as in the application of “so-called ‘anti-discrimination’ laws,” he said.

The tendency will also be evident in anti-bullying policies “that turn public schools into indoctrination centers on matters of human sexuality” that undermine any concept of truth in the concepts of male and female; and it will be manifested in restrictions on public funding, revoked tax exemptions, and expanded government regulations.

However, for Archbishop Chaput the biggest “crippling” problem in U.S. culture is the lack of a commonly shared meaning to words such as justice, rights, freedom, and dignity.

“We speak the same language, but the words don’t mean the same thing. Our public discourse never gets down to what’s true and what isn’t, because it can’t. Our most important debates boil out to who can deploy the best words in the best way to get power.”

He said that liberal democracy lacks the ability to be self-sustaining. “Democracy depends for its meaning on the existence of some higher authority outside itself,” he said.  

Human dignity has only one source and guarantee: humanity’s creation in the image and likeness of God.

“Modern pluralist democracy has plenty of room for every religious faith and no religious faith.  But we’re lying to ourselves if we think we can keep our freedoms without revering the biblical vision – the uniquely Jewish and Christian vision – of who and what man is.”

Archbishop Chaput summarized Christianity’s approach to society. Its rise had posed a threat to pagan societies, since the Christian understanding of sacred and secular authority rejected worship of the Roman Empire’s gods.

At one point the “confessional state” became “the standard Catholic model of government.” Such a state was committed to “advancing the true Catholic religion and suppressing religious error.”

The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on religious liberty aimed to correct this approach by “going back to the sources of Christian thought.”

“The choice to believe any religious faith must be voluntary. Faith must be an act of free will, or it can’t be valid,” he noted.

“Forced belief violates the person, the truth and the wider community of faith, because it’s a lie,” the archbishop continued. Persons have rights “even when they choose falsehood over truth.”

The archbishop warned that religious freedom cannot survive unless people “actually believe and live their faith,” including in their public lives.

“No one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away,” he maintained.

“In practice, no law and no constitution can protect religious freedom unless people actually believe and live their faith – not just at home or in church, but in their public lives. But it’s also true that no one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away.”

Archbishop Chaput stressed the importance of finding hope in the people who comfort the suffering, serve the poor and “seek and teach the truth.”

“In the end, there’s too much evidence that God loves us, with a passion that is totally unreasonable and completely redemptive, to ever stop trusting in God’s purpose for the world, and for our lives.”

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Before you read the letter and appeal below for the Christians persecuted, crucified, slaughtered, and chased from their homes in Syria and Iraq by ISIS, I want to tell you my own story.

A month ago we were in Istanbul and we heard a liturgy going on in the side chapel. We could tell it was not familiar, that it must be an Eastern Rite liturgy. Afterwards we talk to the small group with their priest who had been celebrating the Mass. We found that they had just escaped from Iraq where their whole village and their relatives were being slaughtered and killed. They had escaped across the border into Turkey with only the shirts on their backs. It left us all in tears and very moved.

Now read below and see if you are able to help some of these Christians fighting for their lives their family and their faith.

This year, the Child Jesus will be born amid the containers, halls and schools crammed with Christian refugees who fled Mosul pushed by the militias of the Islamic State, Mosul Archbishop Mgr Amel Nona said to us a in a letter.

 A refugee himself in Kurdistan, he is working on meeting the emergency spiritual and material needs of his flock. Yet, he notes, despite the misery of losing everything, Christian refugees have not lost the faith or the desire to bear witness to it in their own land, from which they were expelled.

 Mgr Nona’s letter, which we publish in its entirety, is a response to the third transfer of funds raised through ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’ campaign. In November, AsiaNews transferred 212,901.88 Euros. If we include 672,517.72 Euros already transferred, we reach a total contribution of 885,419.6 Euros. In view of such abundant generosity, our gratitude goes to the Lord and all of you who contributed, in some cases by giving up certain things.

 Many readers and friends have asked us whether the campaign will go on, if “adopting” a Christian from Mosul means that help will continue beyond the immediate crisis. We think so since Christians – but also Yazidis and Muslims – are still living in a situation of emergency with radical and essential needs that must be met. Our refugee brothers and sisters remain in need of solidarity.

 Even Pope Francis, a few days ago, sent a message to the Christians of Mosul in Kurdistan in which he expressed his closeness and desire to be with them.

 During a visit to refugees in Kurdistan, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Sako, called on fellow Christians in Iraq to fast before Christmas and celebrate the holidays – including New Year – with moderation in order to be close to the pain and sense of loss people have experienced because of their faith, and to call on the Lord Jesus to help them go home, to Mosul.

At AsiaNews, we call on all of our friends to do the same, fast and celebrate with moderation, and send any of the money saved as a donation to meet the needs of our refugee brothers and sisters through the ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’ campaign.

 Wishing you a Christmas full of fraternity and gratitude.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera

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On Sunday Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew signed a joint declaration affirming their common commitment to full Christian unity as well as their support for suffering Christians in the Middle East.

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years,” the joint statement reads.

Sunday marked the third and final day of Pope Francis’ trip to Turkey, and coincided with the Christian feast of the apostle Saint Andrew, of special significance to the Orthodox Church. Andrew was brother to Saint Peter and the Orthodox consider Patriarch Bartholomew to be his successor.

The joint statement calls on Middle East leaders to do all in their power to enable Christians to remain in their native land. “Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes,” the declaration reads. “It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests.”

The two leaders describe the tragic situation of Christians in the Middle East as “an ecumenism of suffering” drawing Christians closer together. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, the declaration continues, “so, too, the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity.”

“The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community,” the declaration says.

Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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Bishop Conley’s Comments on our Cruise: “In the Footprints of St. Paul”

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The ancient Christian writer and theologian Tertullian once asked the Church, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” He asked the question as Christianity spread from Israel into the Greek world; and as Greek intellectuals looked for deeper insight into the Christian mystery. Tertullian was asking whether pagan Greek culture—philosophy, poetry, the arts, history [...]

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Victims of Radical Islam – Graphic Images…

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Adopt a Christian in Mosul – I just did!

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Patriarch of Iraq YELLS at the World; “Where are You?” His Words Here – Steve to discuss this topic today on Al Kresta Show

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Christians Branded before Death or Exile: the Arabic letter for “n” – Nazarene

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A Good Priest Friend in Deep Water Concerning Homosexuality after Teaching JPII’s “Theology of the Body”

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Radical Muslim Rebels in Syria Torturing and Killing Christians – Graphic Pictures

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80 Executed Publicly in North Korea, Several For Possessing Bibles

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Authorities Carry Out Death Sentences in Several Cities Around the Country By Junno Arocho Esteves VATICAN CITY, November 12, 2013 (Zenit.org) – A South Korean news agency has reported that an estimated 80 people were executed in seven cities in North Korea, some of whom were executed for possessing Bibles. According to the Korea Joongang [...]

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