A First #RedWednesday in Canada
Close to 1,500 participants across the land
“This first edition of Red Wednesday – #RedWednesday – is a real success across the board,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), a little over a week after the event which, from one ocean to the other, gathered close to 1,500 people in at least 8 Canadian dioceses with a total 65 different activities.
“A response for which we feel overjoyed and demonstrates to us the extraordinary desire people hold to be in solidarity with those whose fundamental right for religious freedom and freedom of conscience is not respected,” adds Mrs. Lalonde. “We are already asking people across the country to mark Wednesday, November 20, 2019, on their calendars. Join us in this global movement aiming to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians and serious lack – in certain cases an extreme lack – of religious freedom in close to forty or so countries.”
Calgary: 58 Activities
The team at the Diocese of Calgary responded with great enthusiasm to the call launched by ACN and then by their bishop, Msgr. William Terrence McGrattan. “There were 51 activities organized throughout the region taking place throughout the day,” said Theodoric Nowak, director of Social Justice and Outreach Ministries for the diocese. “Essentially, times for prayer were scheduled, or in some cases, parishes decided to offer masses that day for the intentions of persecuted Christians and to subscribe to the objectives of #RedWednesday. Mr. Nowak who was the principal promoter of the event of the diocese indicates, “people in our diocese hold religious freedom to heart and cannot conceive of people, including their brothers and sisters in the faith, would be obligated to practise in secret or worse, face imprisonment for simply professing their faith. It is inconceivable to us!” he adds. According to Mr. Nowak, another reason is also that in the parishes one can find “a large number of immigrant people coming from countries where religious freedom is under pressure. They understand the situation all too well,” he concludes.
Braving a Storm
On November 21st, in the afternoon, snow fell abundantly and was accompanied by violent winds,” Robert Lebel, the priest who heads the ecumenical pavilion of Versant-la-Noel (roughly translated as Christmas Slope for it sits at the foot of a mountain slope in Thetford Mines, diocese of Quebec) and author-composer-singer of the well-known songs, among others the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. “The thick powder made travelling very difficult and the mercury quickly fell to zero! But the team of Versant-La-Noel chose not to cancel nor to reschedule the vigil anticipated for this Red Wednesday.”
In a message sent to ACN, he also wrote, “Despite the temperature, thirty or so people gathered in the ecumenical pavilion which was completely lit in red. In the spirit of simplicity and as a symbol of solidarity people were wearing red and also wore the scarves provided by ACN. We also used the presentation texts about the global situation prepared by ACN, as well as the suggested prayers. Of course, we shared in our prayers spontaneously and our evening was punctuated with song: Intercession, Consolez mon Peuple, Rien jamais, Comme la Prunelle de tes yeux…. Thank you to the ACN team for this invitation to raise awareness in our world about these never-ending persecutions and in bringing us into solidarity through this chain of prayer.”
An Embassy That Went Red
Elsewhere in Canada, the archbishops of Toronto and Montreal both presided over events connected to #RedWednesday. In cosmopolitan Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins presided at an evening interfaith prayer vigil broadcast live on Salt and Light television. And in Montreal, Msgr Christian Lepine presided for a fifth consecutive year at a mass for persecuted Christians. The mass was broadcast over the radio waves of RadioVM, a Catholic radio station reaching a vast number of Quebecers. In Ottawa, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) lit their offices in red, one way to give support to persecuted Christians.
Finally, the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa illuminated their building. The Christians of Hungary, when living under a communist regime, benefitted from ACN support. Today the government is contributing to the reconstruction of Christian towns and villages on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq. In 2017, it was the first member country of the European Union to consult with Aid to the Church in Need with regard to the reconstruction of this region devastated by the Islamic State.
In all, 65 activities took place in at least eight dioceses: Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Rimouski, Toronto, Saint Jerome and as far away in northern Ontario as Hearst. “We are already making plans for next year!” said Mrs. Lalonde. “The enthusiasm shown by the organizers for this activity of awareness raising, prayer and information is very encouraging. We hope to see everyone next year!”
The archdiocese of Toronto was also very active this Red Wednesday with activities and spreading the word to all their parishioners. We invite you to read the homily given by Archbishop Collins of Toronto and also view the beautiful vigil in replay which was broadcast live from Saint Michael’s right here: Red Wednesday Vigil in Toronto.
For more information: www.acn-canada.org
Full 2018 Religious Freedom Report: www.religion-freedom-report.org
Executive Summary (PDF Version) : bit.ly/RFR_ACNCanada
Key words: #ReligiousFreedom #RFR2018 #ACN