St Patrick’s Cathedral will host the second annual Night of the Witnesses on 22 November 2023 at 7pm. An initiative of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Night of the Witnesses is an evening of testimony, prayer and song to honour the courage and fidelity of 12 recently martyred Christians and to stand in solidarity with the more than 200 million Christians worldwide who are suffering persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ.
Night of the Witnesses began at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris over 15 years ago, and it is now a regular feature in cities around the world, including Madrid, London, Washington and Kraków.
National Director of ACN Australia and New Zealand Bernard Toutounji said, ‘Last year, Canberrans welcomed this unique event to Australia’s shores. We were gratified to welcome a large number of people to St Christopher’s Cathedral who recognised the opportunity to pray and hear the stories of brothers and sisters who have paid the ultimate price for following Our Lord.’
Ben Paton, a Year 12 student from Marist College who attended the event, was moved. ‘I was astonished to hear about the number of modern-day martyrs and the extent of persecution ... but was also inspired by one of the speakers who said, “With faith and courage, we can defeat any evil without fear.”’
Archbishop Christopher Prowse, host of the inaugural event, said that Night of the Witnesses highlighted the reality that martyrdom is not something confined to the pages of history. ‘You might think the martyrs are from 500 years ago ... No, this is not so. They are from 2017, 2014, 2020! We are living in a time of unprecedented martyrdom in parts of the world.’
This year, three visiting guest speakers will share their personal stories of religious persecution. These include His Beatitude, Patriarch Joseph Absi of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and all the East; Mr Xavier Bisits, ACN Head of Projects, Middle East; and Sr Majella Dogonyaro OP, a Dominican sister in northern Nigeria, where it is estimated that 1,000 Christians were brutally murdered in the first 100 days of 2023 alone.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli will preside over this year’s event at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. ‘Giving public expression to God’s justice and mercy in the world and standing with Jesus in solidarity for the poor and persecuted is a deeply Catholic thing to do,’ he said.
‘I warmly encourage Catholics and all people of Melbourne and beyond to join us for the Night of the Witnesses.’
For more information about Aid to the Church in Need and to receive updates about the evening, visit www.aidtochurch.org/notw or phone 1800 101 201.
Banner image: Aid to the Church in Need.
VMCH11 December 2023
Melbourne Catholic08 December 2023