On Friday evening, Rome’s historical Trevi Fountain turned red in commemoration of the martyrs of our time.
The event was organized by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is active in supporting Christians in areas where they are facing martyrdom, notably in Syria and Iraq.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary and International President of Aid to the Church in Need, gave an address. Testimonies were also given by families of those who have been martyred.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the cardinal’s reflection:
Silence and the Conspiracy of Silence Are a Sin (Pope Francis)
This evening, here, in the heart of this city, where the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and a very great array of witnesses of the faith shed their blood out of fidelity to Jesus Christ, thus writing, among other things, the first page of freedom of conscience, we are in the most appropriate conditions to understand the mission of the “Aid to the Church in Need” Foundation. Its voice is that of a restless prophet, who provokes and incites to do the only thing necessary: to give food the hungry for bread and justice, seeing Jesus in them. One prays and acts so that people’s hearts will open to dry “God’s tears” wherever He weeps; one educates to love also the persecutors themselves and to understand the Church as Body.
We could be asked if in the future there will still be persecuted Christians to help. Let us remember, then, Jesus’ words: “If they persecute me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). As long as there are Christians, poor and vulnerable, they will also be persecuted.
Uninterrupted is the trail of blood that traverses human history, from the day in which Cain raised his hand against his brother Abel, to those killed by the violence of these days, and we know, unfortunately, that such a tragedy will last mysteriously until the fulfillment of history.
What meaning can this tragic trail of blood have? That God is a God that permits it?
Christ is the center of the cosmos and of history, and His blood shed on the Cross, His blood that gushed from His side pierced by the spear, has the power to change completely, forever and for all, the meaning of suffering. Evil certainly remains evil and, in this sense, it is always absolutely execrable, to be avoided and to be combated strenuously with the good, with all the strength that every man of good will has at his disposal.
This notwithstanding, from the side of God made Man gushes a “new Blood” and just one drop of that Blood can save the entire cosmos.
Let us remember, this evening, the blood of Christian martyrs, shed because of the violence of men and the sin in the world. As Pope Francis says, silence and the conspiracy of silence are also sin!
We are aware that this blood is assumed by Christ and transformed by His divine power in “Opus Salutis,” in Work of Salvation, because, associated to the redemptive Passion of the one Savior, it becomes vicarious expiation.
In these last decades justly committed in the precious fabric of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, we have sought several ways to encounter the other: some think that we can be anonymous Christians; others that Christianity is one of the possible ways – and not “the” way to encounter God.
I humbly believe that the Christian martyrs, and with them all Christians, exercise a true and proper vicarious expiation, for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, in favor of all men! And it is because of this that, while we surround them and weep with the families over their violent death, we raise a hymn of praise to God for these brothers that have entered into the glory of Paradise, with the palm of martyrdom in their hands and circled by a crown of glory. In fact we are certain that the only salvation, which Christ earned for us on the Cross, reaches us today also through them, because Christianity has a martyrological structural dimension, which, far from annihilating the effect and the strength, strengthens and renders it even more fruitful of faith, of love and of future.
I now wish to express a special thank you to the organizers of this initiative, to those who have made it possible and those who have worked on it, an initiative all the more appropriate in this city, place of convergence of the faith of billions of persons and of custody of an immense spiritual patrimony, which cannot constitute a museum of memories but which must be prolonged vitally in the building of the civilization of love.
May Mary Most Holy, “Regina Martyrum,” sustain our daily witness in the martyrdom of patience, render us sensitive to the needs of those in danger and prepare us for the supreme encounter with the Redeemer, which will happen when and how God wills.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)