As Christians and Catholics in the diocese prepare to celebrate our Lord’s birth, there are millions of our faithful throughout the world who have a very different Christmas memory and reality.
While we in Brooklyn and Queens have witnessed the hardship of immigrants coming to the city looking for a better way of life and have opened our hearts to help any way we can, we cannot know the dire consequences facing Catholics in far-flung lands this Christmas Day.
Think of Catholics in Ukraine. We can only hope they have a “Silent Night” on the holy day, but the news coming out of Kyiv tells us there may be more chaos and bombings from Russian forces as the country attempts to stand up to the aggressors.
Think of the many Catholics in Haiti, who have suffered for a decade after an earthquake and other natural disasters have left the island nation devastated and destitute. The faithful are frightened to celebrate their faith as bands of terrorists take control of the country.
No amount of charity or goodwill can find its way to Haitians with such lawlessness ruling the land.
The persecution of Catholics in some African nations is an ongoing concern as political leaders in Nigeria ignored the attack and killing of more than 50 Catholic parishioners during a Mass at St. Francis Parish in the Ondo Diocese on June 5.
There have been attacks and kidnappings of at least six other Catholic priests across Nigeria this year. This has a chilling effect on how Nigerian Catholics plan to celebrate this Christmas season.
As Catholic pilgrimages descend on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the ongoing violence in the West Bank of Palestine against Christians and Muslims should not be ignored by the world.
In Nicaragua, a parish in the Archdiocese of Managua reported on its Facebook page that the National Police — which operates under the orders of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo — prohibited the faithful from going ahead with a planned procession commemorating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Earlier this year, Bishop Rolando Alvarez, the most prominent voice of protest against Ortega’s regime, was arrested in a police raid of his residence. He was already under home confinement with 24-hour police surveillance for denouncing the government’s detention of opponents and suppression of civil rights. In mid-August, the police hauled him and eight of his companions away to jail.
Over the past year, Nicaraguan police have arrested nearly a dozen priests. They charged some with disturbing the public order. Others were detained but never formally charged, and their whereabouts remain unknown.
These actions surely have a dampening effect on public celebrations of Christmas, including displaying decorations or attending Mass.
At this time of the year, as we come together as parishes during Advent to usher in the Christmas miracle, we need to remember our fellow Catholics and Christians around the world who must celebrate their faith in hiding and solitude due to the threat of persecution from political or secular leadership.
Returning back home to the Diocese of Brooklyn, despite us facing a Christmas season with inflation taking more of our savings for food, gas, and presents, we can celebrate the birth of our savior without the threat of persecution.
May the Christmas miracle reinvigorate our faith and encourage us to remember all those suffering from oppression or tyranny for just wanting to practice theirs.