Catholics owe solidarity, prayer and a voice against injustice to their fellow Christians being martyred and persecuted around the world, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., stressed on Ash Wednesday. “(W)e can go out those doors with ashes on our forehead” as a public display of faith, the cardinal said. However, “(t)here are parts of the world where that will just as well be a death certificate.” Cardinal Wuerl spoke at the end of his Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential season of Lent which culminates in the Easter Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday — followed by the celebration of Easter Sunday and the ensuing Easter Season. On Ash Wednesday, Mass attendees may receive ashes on their forehead in the sign of a cross, to signify penance and the remembrance of human morality. Focusing on the reality of Christian persecution in many parts of the world. Cardinal Wuerl pointed to Nigeria, India, Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land as particular areas of concern. “There are parts of the world,” the cardinal said, “where Christians are regularly martyred. Where their churches are destroyed, their homes burned, their children sold into slavery.” “The first thing we owe our brothers and sisters is a sense of solidarity with them. If they suffer, we should feel that suffering. And we owe them our prayerful support, but we also owe them our voice.” Cardinal Wuerl decried the “silence” that enables the martyrdom of Christians in these areas, and cited Pope Francis to exhort his audience to action. “It has gone on for the longest time, because of the silence. The silence of the world community, the silence of all of us in the face of this extraordinary violence against the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. The prayer and outcry against such persecution cannot just “be a passing one-day story that is forgotten the next day,” he insisted. “As Pope Francis tells us, we have an obligation to one another, we have an obligation to anybody of any faith who has to forfeit their life simply because they believe.” Over the past weekend, the Islamist terror group ISIS beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in Libya. Pope Francis offered a Mass for the slain Christians and hailed them as “martyrs.” He also lifted up in his prayers the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros. In his Ash Wednesday homily, Cardinal Wuerl exhorted those in attendance to look beyond “the immediacy of today” to see God. “This season is a time to renew our desire, our commitment to be converted all over again to that very holiness of God to which we are called,” he said. The practices of Lent — prayer, penance, and almsgiving — exist “simply to remind ourselves there is so much more beyond the immediacy of today.”
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