Wednesday 11 February 2015

Portuguese churches share Lenten collections with persecuted Christians

Archbishop of Évora, D. José Alves
At least two Portuguese dioceses will be setting their special Lenten collections aside to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

The archdiocese of Évora was the first to accept the proposal made by the Portuguese branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity which does work on the ground to help Christians of all denominations in desperate situations.

The president of ACN – Portugal, Catarina Martins, says that at least one more diocese has shown interest and will almost definitely follow the example of Évora, but she cannot say which, since the bishop has not confirmed officially.

The full amount which will be donated is not known for now, but by way of example, the archdiocese raised 20,000 euros in 2014 to help a congregation of nuns build a new convent, so the amount this year should be similar.

Évora is a large and historically important archdiocese in the South of Portugal, but the Alentejo region, which it serves, has a low proportion of practising Catholics and has also been particularly badly hit by the financial crisis which has affected the whole country for the past several years.

However, this show of solidarity with Middle Eastern Christians is a sign of solidarity with those in an even worse position. Mainstream news outlets highlighted the plight of Christians and Yezidis in the Summer, after the fall of Mosul and the surrounding areas to the hands of the Islamic State. But the persistence of ACN-Portugal, which has brought over important figures from the Middle Eastern Christian community, such as Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, archeparch Issam John Darwish, of the Melkite Archdiocese of Furzol, Zahle and the Bekaa and sister Hanan Youssef, has been instrumental in keeping the subject fresh in the minds of the Portuguese people.

The situation of Christians in the Middle East has also been extensively covered by Renascença, the country Catholic media group, which operates a website and four radio stations which, when taken together, lead the radio market in terms of share.

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