THANKSGIVING DAY, in Rome, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will launch its 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report. Accompanying the publication of the report—which examines the state of religious freedom in each of the world’s 196 countries—will be a host of prayer meetings and special gatherings around the world, organized by the various national offices of ACN.
A special feature of the worldwide campaign is the lighting in red of churches and cathedrals, including a number of very famous ones: these include Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, the Sacré Coeur basilica in Paris, the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, and Westminster Cathedral in London. More than 1300 churches in the Philippines will go red this year.
In Venice, on Nov. 20, 2018, the famed Rialto Bridge and parts of the Grand Canal were also lit in red. In a message sent to the “Venice in Red” event, Pope Francis said he hoped the initiative will put the spotlight “on the grave problem of discrimination facing Christians in so many parts of the world.”
The cornerstone of ACNUSA’s “Courage in Red” campaign—with red the color martyrdom, in honor of today’s persecuted Christians—will be a celebration of Vespers Nov. 28, 2018 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“As an organization committed to helping persecuted Christians, ACN has a particular duty to uphold the basic human right of religious freedom,” said George Marlin, chairman of ACNUSA. He added: “Sadly, there are more and more infringements of this basic human right, which affect all religions. Though, by far, most of the victims of religious persecution are Christians.”
“We are therefore inviting people throughout the world to stand up together with ACN in defense of religious freedom and make a visible gesture of solidarity,” Marlin said.
ACNUSA invited Archbishop Timothy Broglio—head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and archbishop for the Military Services, USA—to preside at the Vespers at the Basilica in Washington, D.C.; the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, will deliver a message from the Vatican.
Vespers at the Basilica will also feature several witnesses of the persecuted Church: Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan—whose local Church cared for more than 120,000 Iraqi Christians who had fled ISIS; Bishop Oliver Doeme of the Diocese of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Diocese of Maiduguri in Nigeria, a region that suffered some of the most extreme violence and destruction perpetrated by Boko Haram; and Sister Annie Demerjian, a nun from the Community of Jesus and Mary, who for years has stood by the people under her care in Aleppo, Syria, which saw the worst fighting of that country’s civil war.
Vespers are to start at 6.30PM EST and will be broadcast live by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).