Aid to the Church in Need has just completed its 14th session of The Night of Witnesses, a series of prayer vigils organised in five French towns to pay tribute to all the priests and religious killed during the year because of their faith.
The prayer vigils took place in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Lyon, Nice, Lille and Paris between 21st and 27th January and brought together thousands of participants. These Nights of Witnesses -prayer vigils punctuated by testimonies, during which the names of priests and religious murdered during the year are read out- always arouse a lot of emotion.
The portraits of 13 priests and 3 nuns killed because of their faith in 2022 were carried in procession to the altars of five churches and cathedrals which celebrated the Night of Witnesses. Africa is the continent which has known the largest number of martyrs, with four priests killed in Nigeria alone, two in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as one nun. America follows close behind in this sad ranking, with notably 3 priests and one seminarian murdered in Mexico.
“Many thanks for such a magnificent and moving ceremony in honour of our persecuted and suffering brothers,” said Michèle after the Paris vigil at Saint-Sulpice. “It’s shocking. What courage, what faith, what perseverance! I was also shocked by the testimonies of the three guests.”
3 witnesses from Chad, Burma and Haiti
The January 2023 Night of Witnesses welcomed three guests who gave powerful testimonies about the life of Christians in their respective countries.
Mgr Edmond Djitangar, Archbishop of N’Djamena, in Chad, showed the courage which the Church displays on a daily basis in daring to denounce certain actions of the government while remaining at the side of a people which is the victim of violence and injustice. “The Bishops’ declarations on the tragedy of 20th November provoked the anger of those in power who accused the Church of having joined the political opposition and betrayed its religious mission…but can you proclaim the Gospel without denouncing that which destroys human flourishing?” (Read his complete testimony here)
Sister Marjorie Boursiquot, a Haitian Salesian nun, deplored the violence which is ravaging her country and provoking more and more attacks on the Church. “The parishes in the no-go areas have had to close their doors, because of the threats of the bandits. On 25 June 2022, we experienced the cowardly murder of Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, an Italian nun of the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucauld, in Port-au-Prince. For 20 years she had dedicated herself to the street children, giving them a place of welcome, a future and a hope. This death has shocked us all.” (Read her complete testimony here)