Pilgrims from persecuted communities receive blessed items

Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 / 10:16 pm (CNA).- The sponsors of an exhibit on anti-Christian persecution gave blessed rosaries and medals to young Catholics from persecuted countries during World Youth Day.

Aid to the Church in Need gave pilgrims objects that were blessed by John Paul II during an Aug. 20, 1986 audience.

Among the first to receive the items were a young man and his fellow pilgrims from Egypt.

“Initially, he was very surprised to be given the gift and seemed to be deeply moved by the gesture,” said Edward Clancy, Aid to the Church in Need USA’s director of Evangelization and Outreach.

“He understood that the rosary and other devotional objects crossed cultural boundaries and that we were saying that although we may be in different parts of the world we are still praying for you and thinking of you.”

A priest from Alexandria, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of possible attack, spoke out about the terrible situation Christians suffer in Egypt.

He said the young pilgrims are “scared and nervous” because of the religious situation in their homeland.

“They never know what will happen – especially with the girls being abducted – that is why they feel happy (in Madrid), that is why they are in paradise.”

“For the young people it is like paradise here – because we live with trouble every day in Egypt,” he said.

Egyptian Catholics, who are a small minority, are strengthened in their faith by seeing that they are part of the universal Church, the priest explained. More than 800 young pilgrims from Egypt were in Madrid for World Youth Day.

The pilgrims in the priest’s group were physically very tired because they had not gotten much sleep at the event.

“But spiritually they are very happy. They see so many Christians from all over the world, so they feel very happy,” he said.

Aid to the Church in Need’s exhibit is open from Aug. 15-21 in the Royal Church of St. Jerome in Madrid. It tells the story of 15 martyrs from the last 50 years and encourages prayer for persecuted Christians.

It describes three examples of persecution which have drawn international attention: anti-Christian attacks in Gojra, Pakistan, in India’s Orissa state and at Algeria’s Tibhirine monastery.

The multimedia exhibition also features short presentations on Christians in Nigeria, China, Sudan, Cuba and Iraq.

The exhibit has hosted special events with individuals who talked about their personal experiences with Christians in Iraq, Cuba and Sudan.