A profound celebration for Middle Eastern Christians
Nearly 150 people came together last Friday, January 22, at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, in order to pray for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Presided over by the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine, the Mass – which was jointly organized by the Archdiocese of Montreal and the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – was an occasion to recall their current suffering.
“When I am speaking of religious persecution, many are incredulous. They don’t think it still exists in this 3rd millennium,” indicated Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN’s Canadian office. “There are currently 200 million Christians in the world that cannot practice their faith freely. They are scattered across every continent: Asia, Africa, South America and even Europe,” she said.
Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (©Archdiocese of Montreal)
“We pray for all those who are left behind and welcome all those who are settling in here with us,” she declared before adding: “It is our duty as Christians to denounce the discrimination and violence that have victimized them. It is our duty […] to pray for them.” She also proposed an action with an evangelical accent which was to invite the participants, “in this Year of Mercy,” to “pray for their [persecuted Christians] torturers. Who knows what will happen if one of them were to convert… as did Saint Paul long ago.”
“We could no longer live like humans.”
According to many participants, the celebration was very profound and richly animated with songs offered by the choir of Saint Éphrem Syrian Catholic church in Laval. Also in the program was the deeply touching testimonial of Mina Aro, a young Syrian refugee and new arrival to Montreal. “We could no longer live like humans,” she testified. “I cannot forget those who have died because of their faith. I also ask you to pray for the people who stayed in Syria that they continue to keep their faith in God.”
The strength of prayer was evoked throughout the ceremony. “Pray,” insisted Msgr Lépine in his homily. He then recounted the extent to which the few encounters he has had with persecuted Christians had left an impression on him, through the peace these people emit, they who by all rights should be in a constant state of anger.
The archbishop also recalled the subject of persecution as being a current one, as we often have the impression that the story of Christian martyrs is one from the past. However “it is happening now as I speak,” he recalled.
Several co-celebrants and deacons participated in the celebration including Msgr Paul Marwan Tabet, Bishop for Catholic Maronites in Canada.
In 2015, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) support to local churches in Iraq surpassed 15 million dollars and totaled over 8 million dollars in Syria. These amounts do not include the help already given where Christians are living as refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
By Mario Bard, ACN Canada
Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin