If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” said Our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples.
Newsroom (August 30, 2020 8:00pm Gaudium Press) — Anti-Christian hate crimes are on the rise in many parts of the world. The government of China continues to eliminate Christian symbols. In recent months, in the Anhui province alone, more than 500 crosses have been removed from the exterior of churches. This is the continuation of a policy that has become more radical since 2018 because the crosses “violate planning laws”.
According to the French Bishops’ Conference, 228 acts of anti-Christian violence occurred in France — the land of “liberty, equality and fraternity”— between January and March 2019. We have witnessed with deep sorrow the burning of Notre Dame, yet to be clarified. Almost two months ago the ancient and majestic 5,500-pipe organ of Nantes Cathedral was similarly and mysteriously burnt down. Two deputies stated in a press conference that three attacks against the Church were recorded every day in France. And it is not only France; the attacks are increasing throughout Europe. In India, they increased by 40% in the first semester of this year.
We have seen another trait of anti-Christian hatred during protests that have occurred in countries like Chile, Mexico, Argentina. These protests echo the revolutionary phrase of the Russian anarchist thinker Piotr Kropotkin: “the only Church that illuminates is the one that burns”. In other words, by means of destroying Crucifixes, decapitating images of the Virgin Mary, or painting the exterior of churches with anti-religious slogans.
In the United States, a symbol of democracy, some sectors within the protesters vandalized San Gabriel Mission of California, damaging the image of Saint Junipero Serra. He was a Franciscan friar and a protector of the Native Americans; he also named the great cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Protesters also damaged some churches.
More recently, unknown criminals burnt the 382-year-old image of the Blood of Christ in the Cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua. According to Cardinal Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes, this was “calmly planned”, “an act of terrorism”, “a condemnable sacrilege”. A few days earlier, in the same country, vandals desecrated a chapel in the city of Nindirí. They stole the custody of the Blessed Sacrament and the tabernacle ciborium. The Hosts were scattererd on the ground and trampled upon. Images, pews, and other furniture were destroyed expressing a a significant anti-Catholic hostility.
A revolutionary anti-Christian pandemic
We witness ideological hatred, anarchist riots, political upheavals, religious fanaticism, and all kinds of violence in different countries and in various situations. All of them, however, are outlined by hatred against the Holy Catholic Church. A true “anti-Christian revolutionary pandemic” of persecutions, of acts of religious intolerance: the intolerance of the “tolerant”.
These attacks are not solely perpetrated against people as it happens in the assassination of missionaries, especially on the African continent. They also strike church buildings or images, symbolizing heavenly beings. Where are these criminal attacks directed to? Against God? Exactly. Against God who is surely represented by them.
Have times changed? Is there a change in the attitude of the enemies of God and his Church? Are we witnessing the affirmations of the Message of Fatima: “the Church will be persecuted”? Are we witnessing the announcement of Our Lord Jesus Christ: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20)?
The breed of the Virgin and the breed of the serpent
Holy Scripture tells us of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. And it also promises victory when it says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; she will crush your head, you will lay siege on her heel” (Gen 3:15). It signals the birth of two spiritual breeds: the breed of the Virgin, “you are now children of light” (Eph 5:8-9), and the evil breed of the serpent, Satan, those who practice “the works of darkness” (Eph 5:11). The confrontation between the two will only cease, at the end of the world. Yet, throughout history, the breed of the serpent has been conveniently hiding, rarely showing its “claws”.
Currently, we see the faithful Catholic witnessing these sacrilegious events with sadness, perplexity, and even fear. Confronted with the implied dangers, they want to stand faithful bearing the seal of God engraved on their hearts. As Saint Paul said: “with fear and trembling”, “as children of God without blemish, among this perverse and depraved generation, wherein you shine as lights in the world, keeping firmly the word of life” (Phil 2:12-15).
Today’s world lives “in the darkness” of faith. Evil, in the 21st century, having all the material means to destroy the Good, fears the voice of good people. Evil knows that Goodness is invincible. Evil knows that the Church is immortal.
The deep roots of this hatred, held by the devil itself, come from the Immaculate Purity of the Virgin Mary in her children, the faithful Catholics. There an be found the deepest source of the hatred behind so many attacks.
Despite the apparent disparities regarding the power of evil, we must rejoice; victory will always belong to the Blessed Virgin, “for nothing is impossible for God” (Lk. 1:37).
The Virgin will triumph
Through diverse apparitions during the last centuries, the Blessed Virgin came as a Queen, to prepare Humanity for the ultimate clashes between these two races: the sons of light and the sons of darkness, granting fervor to the good and scattering confussion among the bad. The battle announced in the Book of Revelation is a clear sign: “A great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman dressed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head”. “And another sign appeared in Heaven: a red dragon”, “and there was a battle in Heaven: Saint Michael and his angels fought against the dragon”, “and there was no place left for them in Heaven” (Revelation 12:1-8).
I conclude with a message to those who blaspheme, —shouting like demons against the Holy Church “God does not exist” or “Church is trash”,— with the phrase of the French poet Edmond Rostand: “Insult the sun; it will shine anyway”.
(Originally published in La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador, August 30, 2020)
By Fr. Fernando Gioia, EP