Cardinal Piacenza: #RedWednesday is a commendable initiative.

“Countless Christians are suffering in the name of Jesus, atoning for our cowardly indifference”

Interview with His Eminence Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, International President of Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN)

Thirty buildings blazed red on 22 November, among them a large number of cathedrals, churches and schools. Aid to the Church in Need organized this event, which took place on 22 November in Great Britain, as a symbol of religious freedom. Last month, the French office of the Pontifical Foundation lit up Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. Do you believe that these types of initiatives are effective in commemorating the victims who have suffered for their faith, some of them having even sacrificed their lives? Is it possible to raise awareness of religious freedom among the public in this way?

I consider the initiative in and of itself to be quite commendable and support it enthusiastically. However, what is also important is that the whole thing is accompanied by an understanding of the values on which the initiative is based. Otherwise, it risks becoming part of certain secular contexts, which is what happened to the holiday illumination at Christmas. At the sites associated with the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More and St. John Fischer, we can better understand the value of martyrdom, also as a demonstration of human dignity, religious freedom and the nobleness of a formed conscience if we don’t harbour any prejudices. The Martyrologium (official martyrology of the Catholic Church – editor’s note) should become an important book once more as the Church undergoes renewal.

The Holy Father has repeatedly called upon us not to keep silent in the face of Christian persecution. How can we help Catholics in Italy become the voice of persecuted Christians, also in order to properly express our gratitude to the many Christian martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the faith?

Yes, the Holy Father Francis has very effectively reminded us that “silence and remaining silent are also a sin”! In keeping with the standpoint of the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need condemns violence against Christians and rises up to defend persecuted Christians to alleviate their suffering. The voice of our charity is that of a prophet who goads and provokes people to do the only thing that needs to be done: to feed those who are hungry for bread and justice and to see Jesus in them. One prays with deep faith and then acts to open up the hearts of the people to dry the “tears of God” no matter where He is shedding them. One teaches oneself to love even the persecutor and to understand the Church as a body in which, of course, at its very centre, each limb is connected to the others. The families, parishes, various groups and educational institutions should also be viewed as instruments and assist in attaining a comprehensive understanding of this subject.

It is also about an all-encompassing cultural discourse. There are quite a few countries in this world, including some located not far from us, in which real persecution is taking place. It is also a subtle persecution, a persecution that leaves no trace. Because it is a veritable “systematic purging” of everything that is Christian or that may even just appear to have something to do with Christianity.

Even there, where this persecution has not yet morphed into physical violence, it still has a devastating effect and is thus not any less aggressive because a systematic attempt is being made to deny the legitimacy of anything that is Christian even on a historical, artistic and social plane.

Your Eminence, it was under your chairmanship that the foundation Aid to the Church in Need illuminated the Trevi fountain with red lights on 29 April 2016 to commemorate the spilled blood of the Christian martyrs. How important is it to draw the attention of the West in view of the persecution that millions of our brothers and sisters in faith are suffering?

First and foremost, it is a duty of conscience. Let us not forget that the Christian martyr also represents an element of authentic civilisation, a lesson in true freedom and love.

The colour of blood that is projected upon the large monuments is a reminder that the Christian martyrs are making atonement by proxy, for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, on behalf of all people, also – and this is what distinguishes Christian martyrdom from other “martyrdoms” – for those who are themselves the instruments of their martyrdom! And this is why we raise our voices to God in praise for these brothers who have entered the splendour of Paradise with the palm branch of martyrdom in their hands and have been crowned with the incorruptible crown of glory. We do realise that the unparalleled salvation that Christ earned for us on the cross is also bestowed on us today through them: Christianity has a structurally martyrological dimension that does not lessen its effect and power but strengthens it and makes it even more fertile in its faith, love and continuity. We also should not forget that the ideals that are disappearing are the ones no one would consider worth dying for!

My gift to support the ACN mission with the persecuted Christians and those in need.

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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.