In collaboration with Aid to the church in Need (ACN Canada), Archbishop Christian Lépine presided a mass November 21 for persecuted Christians. It is the fifth time that Montrealers had come together to pray for all those who are persecuted for their faith.
Nearly 50 activities were organized in the dioceses of Canada during this Red Wednesday (#RedWednesday) to inform and educate the public about the fact that 200 million Christians regularly live in persecution and discrimination because of their faith, particularly acute in nearly forty countries. On this occasion, Mary-Queen-of-the-World Cathedral was illuminated in red.
As ACN fundraising coordinator Annie DesRosiers pointed out, this figure of 200 million people "makes Christians the most persecuted group in the world for their faith." Recalling many stories of persecution, she reverted to Asia Bibi, the imprisoned Pakistani Christian, sentenced to death and finally acquitted last month, eight years later. "But her life and that of her family are still in danger". Her friends and loved ones are not immune to serious reprisals and they still live in fear. The ACN is there to pray, inform, act and "each one of us in his or her own way can offer the support they need so much." Because of their faith, they are persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and killed: Let's help them! ».
In order to allow the assembly to pray, Father Macaryan, a priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church, sang at candle light in memory of all persecuted Christian Brothers and sisters. The whole celebration included meditative songs, the violin and the piano providing a highly emotional moment and allowing an intense internalization.
In his homily, Archbishop Lépine (member of the International ACN Council) spoke about a prayer dating from the Third Century A.D. and which was recently discovered. This oldest liturgical prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary was written during a long period of persecution:
"Under Thy guard we shelter, Holy Mother of God!
Do not refuse the prayers of your children in need,
But deliver us from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin! Amen!"
This prayer is thus the oldest "testimony to the power mediator of Mary": These martyred brothers pray the Blessed Virgin with words to claim the almighty help of Mary.
Archbishop Lépine also pointed out that the use of the term "Mother of God" proves that even before the Council of Ephesus–which made it the formula of a dogma–popular piety had already used it to express its faith.
Emphasizing the fact that there were more Christians persecuted in the 20th century than during the entire history of Christianity, Most Rev. Lépine reminded us of our feeling of powerlessness, our feeling of being often helpless. But through prayer God descends upon the world and "Christians of persecuted regions receive peace that only God can give them." Everyone is therefore called to offer a total prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus, so that she intercede with God. At Christmas, Mary is the mother of Jesus. At the foot of the cross, she becomes the mother of the Church. Now a mother is protection.
Thus, Lépine encouraged the assembly to utter, every day, this prayer in order to protect the Church from internal and external attacks, because "Christians are persecuted every day."