Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli
July 6, 2015
Feast of St. Maria Goretti
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On June 30, 2015, the feast of the Christians martyred under Nero in 64 A.D., our Holy Father, Pope Francis, remarked that there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries. Each month 180 Christians are being martyred. These sad statistics bear witness to the fact that Christians are among the most persecuted religious groups worldwide.
In more than 60 countries, over 200 million Christians are being denied their fundamental rights. In 41 of those countries, Islamic extremists are barbarically beheading, crucifying and killing men, women, young people and children. Tragically, in those areas of the world where Christianity once began, the Christian community is being wiped off the map. Islamic jihadists do not limit their violence to Christians alone. They spare no religious group, even killing those of their own Muslim faith.
As Pope Francis recently remarked, “The dramatic news … about violence, kidnapping …and harassment against Christians and other groups does not stop. We want to assure those involved in these situations that we do not forget them, but we are close to them and pray insistently that, very quickly, the intolerable brutality of which they are victims is put to an end” (Angelus, May 1, 2015).
The Pope has urged us to pray for an increased awareness of the “drama of persecuted Christians in our day,” for religious freedom as an “inalienable human right” and for the “end to this unacceptable crime.” In response to our Holy Father’s urgent request and united with him in concern for all those suffering religious persecution, I am designating this August as a diocesan-wide Month of Prayer for Those Suffering Religious Persecution.
I invite all pastors and religious superiors to promote this intention. The Prayer for Those Suffering Religious Persecution (at right) should be prayed together at all Masses (before or after Mass, or after the Post-Communion Prayer and before the Final Blessing and Dismissal).
In addition, pastors and religious superiors may, if they wish, add any of the following:
1. Petitions for Persecuted Christians in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass.
2. Holy Mass using the liturgical texts designated “For Persecuted Christians” found in the Roman Missal on any day other than on a Sunday or Solemnity.
3. A Holy Hour with Scripture Readings, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction for this specific intention.
4. An invitation to undertake some personal acts of prayer, sacrifice and charity for our suffering brothers and sisters.
These are only a few ways to raise our awareness and support of our brothers and sisters around the world. It is my hope that our united efforts, in both prayer and action, will strengthen those who suffer persecution and move the hearts of those who oppress them to embrace a life of peace. As St. Peter Eymard once said, “Have confidence in prayer. It is the unfailing power which God has given us.”
Invoking God’s blessing on all the faithful, religious and clergy of our diocese, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of Paterson