Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas; Optional Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr

Today’s saint was a deacon and the chancellor of England. He was also a good friend of King Henry II who thought he would be able to use this friendship to his advantage. He nominated Thomas to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he soon found out that his friend was a man of integrity who served God first. At one point, in a fit of rage over the Archbishop’s opposition to his plans, he shouted "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four of his knights took these words literally and killed the Archbishop in his own cathedral.
We’re praying that our experience of suffering may help us better understand the pain of others and reach out to help them, and also that the world may open its doors to Christ and to His gospel of peace, brotherhood, and justice. On Saturday we will celebrate the annual World Day of Peace for which Pope Benedict has written a message entitled "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace." Let us pray for all who are suffering from religious intolerance and persecution as we reflect on part of Pope Benedict’s message.

My thoughts turn in a special way to the beloved country of Iraq, which continues to be a theatre of violence and strife as it makes its way towards a future of stability and reconciliation. I think of the recent sufferings of the Christian community, and in particular the reprehensible attack on the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad, where on 31 October two priests and over fifty faithful were killed as they gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass. In the days that followed, other attacks ensued, even on private homes, spreading fear within the Christian community and a desire on the part of many to emigrate in search of a better life. … I offer heartfelt thanks to those Governments which are working to alleviate the sufferings of these, our brothers and sisters in the human family, and I ask all Catholics for their prayers and support for their brethren in the faith who are victims of violence and intolerance. … It is painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s religion freely except at the risk of life and personal liberty. In other areas we see more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility towards believers and religious symbols. At present, Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith. Many Christians experience daily affronts and often live in fear because of their pursuit of truth, their faith in Jesus Christ and their heartfelt plea for respect for religious freedom. This situation is unacceptable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity; furthermore, it is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.