For reasons I will never quite understand, the Fontana di Trevi is among the principle stops tourists make on their visits to Rome (it wouldn't be on my list of the top ten things to see). Though they rarely make a visit to the beautiful Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (which is on my list), they always make a stop at the Trevi Fountain:
Certainly the Fontana di Trevi is a beautiful monument and an impressive work of sculpture, but, to my mind, it's just an oversized fountain. Tonight, however, it will be more than just a fountain; it will be a wake-up call as it is bathed in red light.
The illumination of the Fontana di Trevi is a project of the Italian branch of Aid to the Church in Need. Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the direction of the Holy Father to provide material and spiritual assistance to persecuted Catholics throughout the world. It is my favorite charity and one I implore you to support.
The purpose of illuminating the Fontana di Trevi is to call attention to the great suffering of Christians throughout the world because of their faith:
The announcement of tonight's event also expresses "so many of our persecuted brothers are forgotten they will be grateful, because your presence will represent them, giving them full visibility in the public arena. Many voices will merge into a single choir, and our choir in the background of the magnificent Roman Fountain purpled [the Italian original uses the color purple instead of red], hopefully can sing the prelude to a lasting and concrete reaction at each location, so that the persecuted of the twenty-first century can return as soon as possible to enjoy full of their natural right to religious freedom.
We help the Church in need!
As Aid to the Church in Need is joined by other non-governmental organizations to draw the attention of everyone who passes by to the suffering of so many people, the call will be heard to heed the words of the Apostle Saint Paul - who suffered and gave his life for his faith in Jesus Christ in this very city: "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
The situation is much worse than most people have any idea of (only because they aren't really paying attention). Nina Shea recently summarized the suffering endured by our brothers and sisters worldwide:
This threat has become existential for various Christian communities in Asia and Africa. In northern Nigeria, worshippers are slaughtered in their churches and in their living rooms. In Kenya, Christians have been hunted out and killed for their religion in their university dorm rooms, at shopping malls, and on public buses. In Libya, it was the Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Christian migrants who were singled out and beheaded. In Pakistan, Christian families were blown up while celebrating Easter in a park. In Yemen last month, the nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were tied up, shot to death and mutilated; their staff was murdered and their priest, the last surviving Christian in the port city of Aden, was kidnapped. For the past three days, at the outset of the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the Armenian Christian quarter in Aleppo has come under jihadi siege though there are no military installations there—only defenseless civilians.And then there is the religious genocide facing Christians throughout ISIS controlled territory in Iraq and Syria, where, for the first time in two millennia, no functioning church, cleric, or intact Christian community—whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—can be found. While all faith groups are suffering in these conflicts, the Christian communities are being wiped out in targeted attacks [more].
The program will begin at 8:00 p.m. with a series of speeches by those involved in the assistance of persecuted Christians (including the Bishop of Aleppo), a full list is available here (in Italian). At 8:40 p.m. the fountain will be illumined in red, which will be accompanied by music and images of persecuted Christians. I expect a great many couples out for a romantic stroll will be somewhat taken aback. Indeed, Nina Shea rightly suggests that Aid to the Church in Need hopes "that the coin tossing, selfie-taking throngs of tourists, as the frivolous Western public at large, will be given pause, if only briefly, to contemplate the surging pattern of mass murder of Christians purely for reasons of faith, largely by Islamists."
The program will conclude with the Prayer of Blessed Pope Pius XII for the persecuted Church. I have not been able to find an explicit prayer composed by Pius XII for the persecuted Church, so I suspect what will be recited tonight is the later part of his Encyclical Letter Meminisse iuvat on prayers for the persecuted Church.
Ordinarily I avoid going by the Fontana di Trevi like the plague, especially on weekends when it is even more crowded and congested than usual. Tonight, however, I will make a exception.
Please, join me in helping the Church in need!