But that's to be expected in these times which Our Lady has said would grow severe as we near the pivotal third millennium. Just as early in the first millennium many Christians suffered persecution for Christ's sake, so also during the latter days of the second millennium Catholics are being persecuted as we document in another CWN story out of Rome today which verifies that sixty-eight were martyred for the faith in 1997 with already ten slain in 1998. Add to this the persecutions in mainland China where the "patriotic" Catholic Church is being promoted by the Communist government which is trying to coerce Chinese Catholics to break with the Vatican. Missionaries and clergy in Africa have had their share of problems as we point out in another CWN story today about the Archbishop of Sudan who has been imprisoned as the government there grows more brash in their attempts to outright confront the Catholic Church. South and Central America have had their problems as we all know, especially in Chiapas, Mexico. Then there is the situation in the region known as the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo specifically where Catholics are being persecuted. In western Europe, Australia and America the persecution is not physical but mental and subliminal as the Catholic bashing continues in the media.
It's been a tough twelve months for Catholics in the courts. Last summer a jury handed down a whopping 19.6 million dollar verdict against the Diocese of Dallas resulting from abuse by former priest Rudy Kos. That trial was ballyhooed in the press as placing the Roman Catholic Church on trial. The secular media relished the verdict and did not hesitate to publicize all the lurid details. Yet they shirk at placing an ad that shows an aborted fetus on the same page or in the same program that shows violence and sex ad nauseum! But the former would be too gruesome, while the latter is accepted because it's "politically corrrect!" Speaking of the pc police, the most recent decision in Chicago which determined that pro-lifers, intent on saving lives, were "racketeering" - you figure it out - has brought out the taunts of "I told you so" being spewed by members of N.O.W. and other leftist groups intent on fostering the culture of death no matter the consequences. If the Church had not been intricately involved before, she will be embroiled the second time around for Cardinal Francis George, OMI, no shrinking violet when it comes to facing controversy, has pledged the Archdiocese's full-hearted support in making an appeal; that, coupled with the clout of Human Life International, the leading pro-life organization headed by Father Richard Welch, promises to be an interesting scenario. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, in Rome the third-world countries are gaining influence as the Asian Synod has begun with the bishops from throughout the Orient convening to address the problems of abortion and persecution, as well as poverty. It all portends toward the final year of this millennium which will kick off in January with Pope John Paul II trekking to Mexico City for the close of the American Synod in which he will give his apostolic exhortation from the shrine where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian peasant Juan Diego at a time in history when the Church was under tremendous persecution and evacuation by thousands in Europe. The reason for her coming at that time was to stop human sacrifice. Today, in an age when persecution is also intensifying throughout the world, the miraculous traveling Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was accrued through the dauntless efforts of Maryknoll missionary Father Walter Winrich, has been traveling around the United States and Canada for the express purpose of putting an end to the atrocious sin of abortion and the sacrifice of human lives - namely the unborn babies. As many Catholics threaten to bolt like their protestant cohorts of the sixteenth century, there are the faithful remnant that remains loyal to the Pope and all the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Like another faithful servant who produced great fruits in those times of peril - Saint Catherine of Siena, we must remain faithful to the cause and be prepared to take the brickbats that are hurled at us for standing strong for Christ. It is just one of the crosses Jesus has asked us to carry if we are to share in His victory. If we can understand this, we'll be well on our way to accepting the crosses Our Lord asks us to carry for His sake! Christ and His Blessed Mother have conveyed to us so often how important suffering is, and it was the playwright William Faulkner who wrote, "the Salvation of the world is in man's suffering." That was borne out through the suffering of one Man Who took the weight of the world on His shouldiers and died for our sins. It is through His Death and Resurrection that we are saved. With that kind of gift we should be willing to reciprocate by standing up for Him when He and His Holy Church are maligned. It's a small price to pay for all He has given us!