Cardinal Dolan will offer Mass to raise awareness for the persecuted Christians in Africa at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Thursday, Sept. 9, at 5:30 p.m.
The Mass is being celebrated on the Feast of St. Peter Claver, a Spanish Jesuit priest and patron saint of slaves and African missions, who came to the New World in 1610 and ministered to the passengers of slave ships entering ports. He baptized slaves, taught the faith to them and heard their confessions.
“Because this is a period of intense persecution of Christians in Africa,” Cardinal Dolan told CNY. “I have heard it from priests, sisters, brother bishops who have visited me from there and faithful Catholics who have fled these countries.”
Many Americans in the United States are not fully aware of Christians being persecuted in Africa. Father Peter Mushi, pastor of St. Cecilia and Holy Agony in Manhattan, and Brother Tyrone Davis, C.F.C., executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry, are leading the committee organizing the Mass.
“Our brothers and sisters from America will know this continent is going through a lot, not only political but there is also religious persecution going on violently,” said Father Mushi, who is from Tanzania.
After planning began, two nuns were shot and killed in a group of nine sisters heading home to Juba in South Sudan Aug. 16.
The lack of general media coverage of Christian persecution in Africa “makes us really very sheltered and isolated from the realities of the world,” Brother Tyrone said. “We need to know what’s happening whether in Sudan, Nigeria, parts of Europe or here in the U.S. We’re celebrating the same Mass and saying the same Mass.
“Silence and ignorance contribute to the ongoing nature of the problem. When people don’t hear about atrocities happening in the world, they don’t have the opportunity to voice their opposition. In that silence, those atrocities continue.”
This is not the first time Cardinal Dolan has devoted a liturgical gathering to remembering persecuted Christians in Africa. In 2015, he led evening prayer for the Christian martyrs of Africa at Holy Family Church in Manhattan, an event that was well attended and received.
People and religious leaders of all faiths are welcome to attend the Sept. 9 Mass.
“This is not an African problem. This is a problem of humanity,” Brother Tyrone said.