CATHOLICS SHOULD stand firm in embracing and spreading their faith even if others have been persecuted for doing so, UST Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P. said.
In his homily during the Red Wednesday mass, Tiong described Filipino Catholics as “new missionaries” who are tasked to witness the faith and spread the gospel.
“Let us persevere in witnessing our Catholic faith. That is more than praying for them (persecuted). We must be steadfast. We must be fully convinced of our faith that we are the true church. That we must spread the gospel,” he said on Nov. 29 at the Santisimo Rosario Parish Church.
“Even if we are Catholics, even if we are Christian faithful, let us look into our hearts. Are we true Catholics? We are called to renew our faith…we may have doubts [but] we must persevere,” he added.
While the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, the vice-rector warned that it is still vulnerable to persecution. He cited the life of Thomasian martyr Blessed Fr. Buenaventura Garcia Paredes, O.P., who was among the Spanish priests and religious individuals executed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
“Spain has been instrumental in the spread of Christianity in our country…but (Paredes) and [his] companions, they were Spaniards. They were Catholics. They were priests. They were martyrs in their own supposedly Catholic country,” the Dominican priest said.
“We pray that it will not happen here (the Philippines)…But then again, for us Christians, for us Catholics, persecution is always a reality in our lives,” he added.
Despite the risks, Tiong reminded Catholics to remain steadfast in their faith as they pursue things in God’s honor.
“We know that we only have one life. Let it be for Jesus in all aspects of our lives. May we be strong in our faith conviction…We see to it that in our prayer and in our witnessing, we must always commit ourselves [to] the Kingdom of God,” he added.
After his homily, a candle lighting ceremony was held and a special prayer was offered for the oppressed and persecuted Christians.
Since 2015, the Catholic Church has annually observed Red Wednesday to remember Christians who are suffering from religious persecution. It was introduced by the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) a Catholic charity organization dedicated to aiding Christians experiencing suffering, oppression, and persecution globally.
In 2020, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declared it an official church activity in the country. The theme of this year’s observance was “Embracing Persecuted, Oppressed, and Christians in Need.”
The University expressed solidarity with the persecuted Christians by ringing bells and illuminating the Main Building, the Arch of the Centuries, and the Martyr’s Monument in red.
“[This is] to remind us that behind the grim reality of religious persecution lies the redemptive value of all suffering when borne in union with the Lord’s cross,” UST Secretary-General Fr. Louie Coronel, O.P. said in a circular addressed to Thomasians.
According to ACN International’s Persecuted and Forgotten Report conducted from 2020 to 2022, nearly 250 million Christians in 24 countries face religious discrimination, violence, or restrictions. F – Katherine Chan with reports from Bianca Ysabel Abrencillo