To make the sign of the cross, Pope Francis stated in an audience last week, reminds us of our union with the sacrifice of Christ and with “those who today bear a heavy cross.” He went on to describe the dire situation facing Christians in the Middle East, noting the persecutions, violence, and forced migration that has devastated that region.
A century ago, Christians in the Middle East accounted for roughly 20 percent of the population; today they scarcely reach 4 percent. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, confronting the deplorable predicament of Christians there, called for “A Week of Awareness,” which ends December 2. The desperate plight of Christians on the soil where our faith began, however, will not end anytime soon.
Supreme Knight Carl J. Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, in response to the concerns highlighted by Pope Francis for several years now, has urged the international community to take action. The Knights themselves have given more than $17 million in humanitarian assistance for Christians in the Middle East since 2014. What can the rest of us do?
Following Francis’ initiative, we can identify the cross in our own lives and unite ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice each time we make the sign of the cross. We can stand in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters, uniting ourselves with them and declaring, with St. Paul: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 2:21).