Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2013 / 11:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- 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.
“We bishops, as shepherds of one of the most richly blessed communities of faith on the planet, as pastors who have spoken with enthusiastic unity in defense of our own religious freedom, must become advocates and champions for these Christians whose lives hang in the balance, as we dare not allow our laudable battles over religious freedom at home to obscure the actual violence being inflicted on Christians elsewhere,” Cardinal Dolan told the bishops’ assembly Nov. 11.
The U.S. bishops’ conference is holding its fall assembly Nov. 11-14 in Baltimore. On Nov. 12, the assembly will elect the successor to Cardinal Dolan, who has served as conference president for the last three years, in addition to serving as Archbishop of New York.
In his farewell address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, 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.
The cardinal invoked Pope Francis’ Sept. 25 general audience, in which the Pope asked Catholics whether they pray for persecuted Christians.
“When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent or is it as if a member of my own family is suffering?” the Pope asked. “When I think or hear it said that many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, does this touch my heart or does it not reach me? Am I open to that brother or that sister in my family who’s giving his or her life for Christ?
Cardinal Dolan said these words must be answered both as individuals and as bishops. Supporting persecuted Christians should be “a defining element of our pastoral priorities,” he said.
He particularly lamented the trials facing Christians in the Middle East.
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 (Read More)