Friday, June 7, 2013

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is visiting Milan on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan. The Edict of Milan was signed in 313 by Constantine and Licinius, respectively the emperors of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. The treaty granted freedom of worship to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, putting an end to imperial religious persecution which had claimed the lives of many martyrs for the faith.

Now consider that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th Century than in ALL the preceding centuries combined!

Pope Francis recently canonized the "martyrs of Otranto," the 813 Catholics killed in 1480 for refusing to convert to Islam when Turkish soldiers captured the southeastern Puglia region of Italy. However, similar violent persecution claims the lives of Christians in northern Nigeria and West Africa even in 2013. Consider that the vast majority of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq have fled the country in the wake of violent persecution which saw their churches destroyed and family members martyred. In parts of the Philippine islands, as in parts of if the Indian subcontinent, Christian lives continue to be taken by religious hatred. In Viet Nam, church property is seized and Catholics are denied access to prayer. In China, Christian belief is considered a threat to the State and is rigorously monitored and controlled. In the United States of America the persecution of Christian belief and practice has taken root in the denial of conscience exemptions, in State coercion to fund and participate in morally illicit practices, and in secular media protrayals of Believers as obstructionists whose voices are to excluded from the development of public policy.

The Edict of Milan followed by two years the Edict of Toleration, and while the word “toleration” can sometimes be an excuse for a bland and wishy-washy approach to life which is tantamount to a tepid commitment to nothing, the concept means so much more: it is foremost a bold recognition that the human person has free will and cannot forcibly be compelled to assent to religious faith. Jesus Christ came to capture our hearts by love and not the sword. True faith begins when we allow ourselves to surrender to God’s love and providence, not to acquiesce to God’s intimidation. May we pray for our brothers and sisters who boldly profess Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution of every form. 1700 years after the Edict of Milan, martyrdom is tragically still real.

May 16, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

No comments:

Post a Comment