In the summer of 2012 the International Society for Human Rights, based in Frankfurt, Germany, estimated that 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination were carried out against Christians.
In terms of all persecution the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community reported that 75 per cent was against Christians.
It is estimated that 150,000 Christians are killed every year for the faith. At an Easter reception in Downing St in April 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that Christianity “is now the most persecuted religion around the world”, echoing statements in November 2012 by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
As a boy I spent two years living in Saudi Arabia, a country which outlaws Christianity and every other faith that is not Islamic.
There are no churches and, officially, no priests, meaning no sacraments. There was, however, one priest in the country and he would travel around the Arabian Peninsula to offer the Mass, to hear confessions, and to administer the Sacraments. In fact, my sister made her First Holy Communion in Saudi Arabia.
But with no churches Mass was said in the homes of Catholic families. Each week one family would offer their house for the Sacrifice of the Mass.
But, so as not to draw attention to what was happening inside and so face arrest, we would park our cars streets away.
Every time Mass was celebrated my family faced arrest and imprisonment. But my parents believed that the faith was worth this.
But Christian persecution is not reserved to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. It happens every day right here in Australia. I have experienced it myself. Dressed as I should be as a priest I have walked through Westfield with people shouting out names at me and grabbing their children to “protect” them.
I have been refused service in shops because I am a priest. I have been threatened with accusations because I am a priest.
More Christians died for their Faith in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined. Governments in Western countries, including Australia, have sought to force Christians to act against their conscience to provide services which we hold to be mortal sins and so force us to collaborate in eternal damnation.
The seal of the confessional is regularly under attack with priests threatened with imprisonment when they refuse to reveal what was told to them by penitents.
There is a well-known expression that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to make people believe that he didn’t exist. I think the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making people not care whether he exists.
The fact is that religious apathy runs riot today. Unfortunately, many who profess themselves Catholic take the faith for granted.
Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, confession and devotions are offered in our parish.
In our two parishes there are 17 Masses every week, six opportunities for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every month, six hours of confessions monthly, as well as the opportunities throughout the year for many devotions. But so many people reject the opportunities to take advantage of these to nurture their faith and to build the parish.
While we all lead busy lives, set aside one hour per week for Mass, one hour per month to spend some time adoring the most Blessed Sacrament, the centre of our Catholic faith.
Remember that there are so many Christians around the world being persecuted for their beliefs and would give so much to have the opportunity we are fortunate to have but take for granted: to be able freely to visit a church and practise our faith.
Pray that our parish will be drawn closer to our Lord and through Him and His Blessed Mother, will work to build the kingdom of God.
This article was first published in the Granville and East Granville parish newsletter.