St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto illuminated in red lights for Red Wednesday. Photo by Michael Swan

Red Wednesday honours persecuted Christians

  • November 18, 2021

Wearing the red of martyrs, St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica once again stood up for persecuted Christians — one of dozens of cathedrals around the world illuminated for Red Wednesday.

The event has only grown since it was inaugurated in Brazil in 2015, said Aid to the Church in Need - Canada executive director Marie-Claude Lalonde, the pontifical foundation that sponsors Red Week.

“Actually, it’s picking up. We have more and more people participating. We see that in Canada, we see that elsewhere,” Lalonde told The Catholic Register.

For the first time, the list of sites illuminated for Red Wednesday this year included the dome of Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.

Just over half of the world’s population lives in 26 countries suffering intense violations of religious freedom, according to Aid to the Church in Need’s 2021 Religious Freedom Report. Christians, the most populous religion in the world, suffer the largest number of religious rights violations in the world, with the Frankfurt-based International Society for Human Rights reporting in 2009 reporting that 80 per cent of the world’s acts of religious persecution target Christians.

In Toronto and across Canada, Catholics have been able to use the refugee sponsorship system to give thousands of Christians and other religious minority families the chance to live their lives free of persecution, Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto director Deacon Rudy Ovcjak told people gathered at St. Michael’s for a vigil sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.
“Giving them a new life, a life they can live in freedom to worship the Lord,” Ovcjak said.

The global situation calls for concrete examples of love of neighbour, the deacon said.

“(Christ) also enables us, we who are not enduring persecution like theirs — we might be persecuted in other ways — and he looks to us to do what we can, to do what is within our power, to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters who suffer and some who are killed. We cannot stand idly by when we see such injustices take place,” Ovcjak said.
Red Wednesday events are more than just symbolic, said Lalonde.

“When we talk to persecuted Christians, they often feel that they’ve been abandoned by the rest of the world — that people forgot about their difficulties,” she said.

Canada’s official participation in Red Wednesday included the cathedrals in Montreal and Toronto, St. Joseph’s Oratory, Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Trois Rivieres, Que., the Embassy of Hungary in Ottawa and Montreal’s major seminary. But unofficial participation far outnumbers the official list, said Lalonde.

“People do something for Red Wednesday and we get to know after,” she said. “We just noticed through Twitter this morning that some schools were doing something special. But they didn’t tell us in advance. We just found out on Twitter… I’m sure there are others.”

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