The international papal charity Aid to the Church in Need lit the Fontana di Trevi in red last night to draw attention to the horrific persecution many of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus are enduring today because of their faith in the only Savior of mankind:
The color red was used to signify the blood of the martyrs. Since I mentioned the event yesterday afternoon, I thought it would be good to share something of the evening with you today.
As the evening began, the famous Trevi Fountain was bathed not in red, but in blue:
The color blue was chosen to call mind the waters that so many seeking to flee persecution must cross.
The hour-long program consisted largely of a series of brief speeches given by those who either work to assist the persecuted Christians or whose lives have been directly impacted by persecution.
We were first welcomed by Monica Mondo, a journalist who served as the Master of Ceremonies and host for the evening:
Doctor Francesco Paolo Tronca, Extraordinary Commissioner of the Capital of Rome, and Doctor Alfredo Mantovano, President of Aid to the Church in Need, offered a few words of welcome. For one reason or another, there were technical difficulties while they spoke to us and their images were not shown on the walls of the fountain.
His Eminence Paulo Cardinal Piacenza, International President of Aid to the Church in Need, next addressed us:
Following the various words of welcome, we listened to testimonies from four people who have known firsthand the persecution endured by many Christians culminating in their martyrdom. First, we heard from a Sister of the Missionaries of Charity, four of whom were killed in Yemen:
We next heard from Professor Shahid Mobeen, Founder of the Pakistani Christian Association in Italy and a friend of Shabaz Batti, who was martyred in 2011:
Maddalena Santoro, the sister of Father Andrea Santoro who was martyred in Turkey in 2006, next shared her testimony with us:
Finally, we heard from Luka Loteng, a student from Kenya who represented many of his peers studying in Garissa were many students were martyred in 2015:
After these testimonies the Fontana di Trevi was illuminated in red while a brief piece of recorded music was played in the piazza:
Once the fountain was bathed in the color of the martrys' blood, His Excellency the Most Reverend Antoine Audo, Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Aleppo, gave a powerful address, the text of which I hope to find and translate:
As each of the various speakers addressed us, people continued to come into the piazza, take their photograph of the Trevi Fountain and continue on their way. Most of the tourists paid absolutely no attention to what was happening which, if they did not understand Italian, could have been clear from the images projected onto the fountain.
One group of young Italian women posed with happy and excited expressions for their selfie while Bishop Audo addressed us about the suffering endured in Syria. Regrettably, I wasn't ready for a photograph at the time, but it would have shown a stark contrast.
This photograph shows something of the contrast, though not as clearly as the scene I mentioned would have shown:
|Never mind the persecution; let me take my selfie|
As the evening's program came to a close, we recited a Prayer of Blessed Pope XII for "the Church of Silence," the Italian text of which was projected in three slides on the facade of the fountain in Italian, which more or less translates into English as follows:
Special thanks to a minor friar for his help not only in tracking down the Italian text of the prayer, but also for providing a link to the English translation given above.
Blessed Pope Pius XIIO Lord Jesus, King of Martyrs, Thou art the comfort of the afflicted and firm support of all who suffer for love of Thee and by reason of their loyalty to Thy Spouse Holy Mother the Church. In Thy mercy give ear to our fervent prayers in behalf of our brethren of the "Church of Silence" that they may never be disheartened in the struggle nor waver in the faith; rather may they taste the sweetness of the consolations reserved by Thee for those souls whom Thou dost vouchsafe to number among Thy companions on the hill of the Cross.
To those who must suffer torment and violence, hunger and fatigue, be Thou the invincible strength sustaining them in their trials and assuring them of the rewards pledged by Thee to those who persevere unto the end.
Many, on the other hand, are exposed to moral constraints, which oftentimes prove much more dangerous inasmuch as they are more deceitful; to such then be Thou the light to enlighten their mind, so that they may clearly see the straight path of truth; be Thou also to them a source of strength for the support of their will so that they may triumph in every crisis and never yield to any vacillation or weakness.
Finally, there are those who find it impossible to profess their faith openly, to lead a normal Christian life, to receive the holy Sacraments frequently, and to converse familiarly with their spiritual guides. To such be Thou Thyself a hidden altar, an invisible temple, a plenitude of grace and a fatherly voice, helping and encouraging them, providing a remedy for their aching hearts and filling them with joy and peace.
May they be helped by our fervent prayer; let our fraternal solidarity assure them that they are not alone. May their example redound to the edification of the whole Church; especially may it be profitable to us who regard them with so much affection.
Grant, O Lord, that their period of trial be shortened and that very soon all, including also their converted oppressors, may enjoy the freedom of serving and worshipping Thee, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
Once the evening program was finished, I stayed around for a few moments to take a few more pictures, my favorite of which is this one because it shows a nun next to a security guard:
The security presence for the evening was more than it normally is at the Trevi Fountain, but not what I expected it to be given the four arrests made on Thursday.
As I walked back toward the Casa Santa Maria, which is very near the Fontana di Trevi, I turned back for one last photograph: