NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new shrine in New York is honoring Christians persecuted for their faith.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Aradin, Mother of the Persecuted Church, opened at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Manhattan. It officially opened on Tuesday with the blessing and dedication of an icon of Our Lady of Aradin.
Father Benedict Kiely of Nasarean.org told Breitbart, "We are at a Lepanto moment in Western history."
He continued, "We must pray with the same fervor that the Christians prayed then to save Western civilization, not just from the danger of radical Islamist extremism, but from radical, aggressive secular liberalism."
Father Kiely emphasized that the shrine would be a place to pray for persecuted Christians. He said, "Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a Christian duty."
He also told Breitbart, "The witness of persecuted Christians inspires us to speak the truth in love and to bear witness even to martyrdom in our society — in other words, have some guts to live the Faith."
Father Kiely and his organization work to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East. He is "a friend of the parish," according to St. Michael's pastor Fr. George Rutler.
The image of Our Lady of Aradin, the focal point of the shrine, was produced by a Middle Eastern Christian who had to flee from ISIS.
It is painted with a gold background and has the words of the Hail Mary written out in Aramaic, the language spoken natively by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Versions of Aramaic are still spoken today by Christians in some parts of the Middle East.
Father Rutler wrote in the June 3 edition of his weekly column, "As I write this, Fr. Kiely is in Mosul, Iraq, which has been almost totally destroyed and where only a few Christian families remain, after thousands have fled."
The parish pastor noted that this shrine for persecuted Christians is the first in the world and alluded to the fact that plans for a second shrine located somewhere else in the world are currently in the works.
He explained to parishioners:
Our church is fortunate to have the first shrine [of the two], with an icon of Our Lady of Aradin that has been donated to us in our important location in Manhattan. The icon depicts Mary in the traditional dress of an Iraqi bride. The border is written in Aramaic, the language of our Lord, which still is spoken in Qaraqosh, the home of the Iraqi Christian artist Mouthana Butres, who "wrote" the icon. Mr. Butres was driven from his home, along with all the Christians of Qaraqosh, by militant Muslims in August 2015, and he and his family now are refugees in Lebanon.
Father Rutler's column addressed the sacrificial nature of the Mass and contrasted the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world with Ireland's recent abortion vote. He wrote, "While bourgeois populations dance in the streets for legalized abortion and the blessing of perverse imitations of marriage, there still are Christians taking up the cross in foreign lands, and in ways that decadents prefer to ignore."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York wrote about the shrine's opening, saying he hoped it would be "a gathering place of quiet reflection for those who cherish the gift of religious freedom."
Dolan opined, "How timely, and how relevant, that we welcome our Mother to the heart of New York."
The organization that helped get this shrine established and plans to create a second one is the Aradin Charitable Trust.
A survey earlier this year, Breitbart notes, showed that American Catholics tend to care more about climate change than about persecuted Christians in other parts of the world.
When asked to rank their concern about various global issues, U.S. Catholics on average put persecuted Christians in dead last. The refugee crisis, human trafficking, poverty and climate change all were more important to those surveyed than their persecuted brethren in faith.
The very revealing survey was conducted by international non-profit Aid to the Church in Need, and the results were published in March.