“We are very, very scared that if this crisis continues it will be the end of Christians in Lebanon and the whole of the Near East in a few years. Normally when Christians leave, as happened in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, they don’t return,” the Catholic patriarch said in an interview with ACN.
The pontifical foundation announced the funds as part of its annual initiative to bring awareness about Christian persecution around the world and the need for religious freedom.
What started out as Red Wednesday in 2016 with hundreds of public buildings lit up in red has grown to become Red Week.
This year, Red Week will include not only illuminated buildings, but also Masses and prayer services for persecuted Christians held throughout the world on Nov. 17-24.
In Austria, about 100 churches will be lit up in red this year and a prayer service will be held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on Nov. 17.
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, in Montreal, Canada, will also be illuminated on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Archbishop Christian Lépine will offer a Mass in the basilica and an African choir will sing parts of the Zaire Use liturgy.
In other countries, churches and public buildings will be lit red on Wednesday, Nov. 24, including Westminster Cathedral in London, Lisbon’s Sanctuary of Christ the King, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, the cathedral in Sarajevo, and 50 buildings in the Czech Republic.
Catholic schools have also joined the Red Week initiative. In Australia, students at Catholic schools across six dioceses will wear red and host prayer gatherings. Aid to the Church in Need in Ireland has also given out 1,200 rosaries for young students to pray for the persecuted throughout the week.
A march for those “Killed in silence” will take place in the Polish city of Poznań on Nov. 20 in which people will walk with red lanterns in memory of those killed in hatred of the faith.
The Maronite Catholic Cathedral in Aleppo will be illuminated in red on Nov. 22.
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Heine-Geldern said he hoped that the Red Week initiative and additional funds would help create conditions “to keep alive the Christian presence” in the Middle East.
“Christians have lived in these lands for 2,000 years, but if we do not help now their heritage could become no more than a relic,” he said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.