Tag Archives: perseucted Christians

Saint Stephen

Stoning of Stephen.jpgThe gates of heaven were opened for blessed Stephen, who was found to be first among the number of the Martyrs and therefore is crowned triumphant in heaven. (Entrance Antiphon)

There’s nothing sentimental about the Christmas season, at least, liturgically speaking, with the day after the feast of the Incarnation being dedicated to the first martyr, Saint Stephen. The antiphon for Mass (above) tells us what the Church believes. The Stational Mass in Rome for today is the Church of Saint Stephen on the Coelian Hill.

Stephen is clearly one of the earliest followers of Jesus, a convert to the way of living proposed by Jesus. Stephen is known to be the first to lay down his life for Christ.
What comes to mind for Saint Stephen’s intercession is help is all those Christians around the world who live in fear of persecution, and those who live in an atmosphere of being misunderstood –falsely accused. Today is also a day to pray for our deacons since Saint Stephen was among the first 7 deacons of our Church.

“Yesterday the Lord of the universe welcomed us whereas today it is the imitator [Stephen] of the Lord,” Saint Gregory of Nyssa preached.
Stephen was stoned in Jerusalem two years after the Lord was crucified. The Church’s Liturgy echoes the teaching of the Fathers of the Church and what was experienced by Stephen himself: imitate the Lord by teaching truth, praying for those who harm you, forgiving those who falsely accuse you, and offer your life completely, even unto death.┬áPersecuted Christians give good evidence of this assessment.
What connection must we make between the beauty of the birth of the Son of God and the death Stephen? The Child born humbly in poverty will humbly die on the cross, the swaddling clothes at the birth will become the burial shroud; the cave of the birth later becomes the cave of death.
Among the things Saint Stephen is the patron of, are deacons, persecuted Christians, coffin makers, and against headaches.
With the Church we pray,
Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.

Where Shahbaz Bhatti leading us now?

A few times in the last month I’ve mentioned the the tragic death of a brother in the Lord, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic in Pakistan, a voice against oppression. His death should signal for us that religious freedom is not operative around the world as well as out-and-out persecution of Christians is a too frequent occurrence. Just read the end of the year stats on the deaths of people just because they are Christian published by the Vatican office of Evangelization of Peoples. We can’t under-estimate the our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face just because they utter Jesus’ name as Lord and Savior: they face death and oppression daily.

In a recently published essay, “The Assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Jesuit Father Luciano Larivera, explores the details of a  Christian’s murder by Islamic extremists. He writes in his summary, “On March 2, a commando of an Islamic terrorist group assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, 42, the minister of Religious Minorities in Pakistan. He was a Catholic, and is already considered a martyr for the faith and interreligious dialogue. Let us quote the spiritual testament. As with the governor of the province of the Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was killed Jan. 4, Bhatti had fought for the abolition, or at least for the reform, of the law against blasphemy and the liberation of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to be hung for insulting Muhammad. Pakistan is torn apart by numerous tensions and an internal power struggle. Religious violence and intimidation have weakened the Government’s action. The country needs the restoration of an effective criminal justice system, which also prevents and sanctions crimes against religious minorities. La Civiltà Cattolica (3859, 2011, II, pp. 81-90) carries the essay.

The UK’s Guardian carried this obit for Shahbaz Bhatti.

St Shahbaz Bhatti? — Paul Bhatti fills brother’s shoes

Some people are
suggesting that the Catholic bishops of Pakistan may petition the Pope to say
that the recently murdered Shahbaz Bhatti is a martyr. More will be known
on or after the March 25th meeting of the bishops. Bhatti was gunned down on Marc in Islamabad. 
Pakistan has about 2.5 Christians. 

Bishop Andrew Francis
of Multan: “Bhatti is a man who gave his life for his crystalline faith in
Jesus Christ. It is up to us, the bishops, to tell his story and
experience to the church in Rome, to call for official recognition of his

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore and president of the
Conference of Bishops said: “The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti means that we
have lost a great leader of our community who stood up for us and articulated
the concerns and fears of our people. We do not have a leader now. Our people
are quite down. They are fearful of the future.”

In the meantime, Paul Bhatti, MD, has been appointed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister to work with minorities, the same job his brother had.

Shahbaz Bhatti remembered by Pope

Last week’s murder of Pakistani Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, 43, was remembered by Pope Benedict. Bhatti was the Minister for Minorities in Pakistani government. Mr. Bhatti leaves behind his Mother, 4 brothers and a sister; his father died in January. He was not married.

Shahbaz Bhatti said “I want to send a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair. Jesus is the nucleus of my life and I want to be his true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with the poor, oppressed, victimized, needy and suffering people of Pakistan.”
Benedict prayed to Jesus that death of Minister Bhatti would be an occasion for renewed work, awakened consciences, for religious freedom and human dignity in Pakistan but in other parts of the world where Christians are persecuted, like Libya.
Rome Reports’ news story of the Pope’s recent remarks is here.
Sara Angle’s CNS story speaks of Bhatti as being a martyr.

Shahbaz Bhatti, Christian, murdered in Pakistan

Shahbaz Bhatti.jpg

Yesterday, Pakistani Christians –indeed, the world– lost a voice of reason and hope in the heinous, tragic death of Shahbaz Bhatti. He was the minister for minorities for the Pakistan government. 
Let us pray for the peaceful repose of Shahbaz Bhatti, his mother and siblings. We’d do well to pray for the Church in Pakistan!
Read the story.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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