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Cardinal says world leaders sidestepping persecution of Christians

21 Aug 2017 – By Christina Leslie

PEAPACK, N.J. (CNS) — Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien told Catholics gathered for Mass and a symposium in the Metuchen Diocese that “the enormity of today’s modern Christian genocide is possibly the worst and bloodiest in church history.”

“The situation in Africa, Asia and the Middle East is conveniently sidestepped by the world’s leaders, even those in Washington,” the cardinal said in his homily during the Aug. 8 Mass at St. Brigid Church in Peapack. “We give God thanks for the grace that continues to nourish and strengthen them.”

Cardinal O’Brien, who is grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, gathered for a Mass with the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre for what was believed to be the first time for the diocese the grand master had gathered with members of the order.

When Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio welcomed the cardinal on such “a historic day for the diocese,” he told those assembled that “a Christian is killed every hour, 365 days a year, because of their faith.”

Resplendent in capes and berets, the Knights and Ladies led a procession for the Mass. The group included Lt. Vicki Downey, head of the order’s Eastern Lieutenancy, which has headquarters in New York, Bishop Checchio, retired Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen, St. Brigid pastor Msgr. Edward Puleo, and more than a dozen priests from around the diocese.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Brien quoted from “The Road to Character,” a book by New York Times columnist David Brooks, to explain why people persisted in faith despite persecution and suffering.

“Brooks reminded us, ‘People are beginning to feel a call; they are not masters of the situation, but neither are they helpless. They feel they must participate together in responding to the challenge,’” Cardinal O’Brien said. “Isn’t that precisely what brings us here together, in the face of an enormous, ongoing, senseless and seemingly endless persecution of our suffering believers around the world?”

Christ passed the test of suffering, the cardinal reminded the congregation, and he can help us and those persecuted for the faith in other lands do the same. It is our responsibility to speak out and pray for them.

“When they ask the heavenly Father for bread, he will not give them stone, or when they ask for fish, he will not give them a serpent,” Cardinal O’Brien said. “We feel their pain, and we must together respond. Our unity with them in the body of Christ demands we support them spiritually, purposely, and share in their suffering.”

Acknowledging the dozens of Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre seated before him, Cardinal O'Brien said, “May the prayers and petitions of our worldwide order echo in every heart. We are in solidarity with these martyrs. May their witness give new life in us to our people of faith.”

The symposium following Mass was sponsored by the Anglosphere Society, a nonprofit membership organization formed in 2012 to promote the defense of religious freedom in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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