In a pastoral letter, Mgr. Vives calls for Roman Catholics to denounce the “hidden” persecution against Christians, and defend religious freedom for all faiths.
by PierLuigi Zoccatelli
Situated between France and Spain, Andorra is a small nation whose co-princes are the President of France and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell, in Catalonia, whose diocese includes the whole territory of the country.
For the time of Easter 2021, the current Bishop of Urgell, Archbishop Mgr. Joan-Enric Vives i Sicília, issued a pastoral letter on religious liberty, published on May 8 in the Spanish journal Ecclesia. (Mgr. Vives received in 2010 from Pope Benedict XVI the title of Archbishop ad personam).
The letter mostly deals with the persecution of Christians throughout the world, and makes three point. First, that we so frequently “hear the news of Christians murdered in so many places in the world” that “we run the risk of becoming accustomed to it. A kind of routine has been established whereby murders of this kind are no longer news.”
The Archbishop notes that, “Aid to the Church in Need estimates that some 200 million Christians—Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals alike—are persecuted and another 150 million are discriminated against. It is the ecumenism of suffering (persecution) and blood (martyrdom). It can be affirmed that of all those persecuted in the world for their beliefs, 3 out of 4 are Christians, and that Christianity is the most persecuted religion today. Every 5 minutes a Christian is killed in countries where Christians are a religious minority.” The persecution of Christians has become “a real humanitarian emergency.”
Mgr. Vives quotes Pope Francis who said, “May this persecution against Christians, which the world seems to want to hide, come to an end,” and recommended a “spiritual journey of intense prayer, of concrete participation and tangible help in defense and protection of our brothers and sisters, persecuted, exiled, killed for the mere fact of being Christians.”
The second point is that persecution not only occurs in non-democratic countries only. “In the West, persecution certainly takes more subtle forms, with legislation against the public presence of Christians or with discrimination in social life”. Quoting Bitter Winter’s editor-in-chief, the Archbishop states that, “there is a hostility to Christianity and the Catholic Church in the dominant culture, ‘which derives above all from its positions on moral matters’ (Massimo Introvigne).”
The third point of the pastoral letter is that Catholics should not defend religious freedoms for themselves only, but for all those who are persecuted or discriminated, no matter what their religion is. “Religious freedom, the letter says, which is a fundamental right, is still a scarce right today. […] It is not a matter of claiming protection for ourselves, but of defending the religious freedom of all people to be able to practice their beliefs.”