Presiding at the International Mass in Lourdes on 24th July, the Cardinal called for prayers for persecuted Christians in his homily.
He invited the congregation, consisting of pilgrims from all over the world, ‘to pray especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith, in so many parts of the world’.
‘The persecution of Christians is more widespread, more far-reaching than ever before,’ he said. ‘So today we remember all those who have died for their faith, whether young or old, in Africa, in Asia, in India, in Europe, or in America. We pray for those who are marginalised in their society, deprived of liberty, of health, of opportunity because of their faith. We hold in our hearts those who languish in prisons or who face the threat of violence every time they attend church. We pray for those whose families have been shattered by this persecution and violence.’
Noting that the Lourdes theme this year is ‘Blessed are the poor’, he said: ‘Today we think of those who are poor through persecution.’
‘They are our brothers and sisters,’ he affirmed. ‘Even if we cannot reach out to touch and comfort them, we can hold them in our prayers so that they may receive the comfort of knowing that they are not forgotten and that we strive, here today, to unite ourselves with them, offering their pain and suffering to our loving Father.’
Recognising the patient suffering of persecuted Christians to the point of death, the Cardinal said: ‘We thank God that even today we are enriched by the deaths of so many martyrs, people who have faced and accepted death rather than embrace unfaithfulness to the Lord. They are the riches of the Church and the seed of our future. We thank them and we praise the Lord for his work in their living and dying.’
The Cardinal was celebrating the International Mass during the annual diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.