The Catholic Church in New York has inaugurated the first Shrine in the world dedicated to prayer for persecuted Christians, with the blessing of the icon of Our Lady of Aradin, "Mother of the Persecuted Church," at St. Michael's parish Wednesday.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said he hopes the shrine will be a place "to pray for all the displaced Christians of the Middle East," and for the whole world.
"We are at a Lepanto moment in Western history," said Father Benedict Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, an organization dedicated to assisting "Christians suffering under the persecution of militant Islam throughout the world" and particularly in the Middle East.
Lepanto refers to the 1571 naval battle that turned the tide for Christian forces resisting the onslaught of the Muslim invaders of the Ottoman Empire in the waters off southwestern Greece.
"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 told Breitbart News.
The new shrine showcases an icon of Our Lady of Aradin, an image of the Virgin Mary with Iraqi features, which Cardinal Dolan called "timely and relevant."
Dolan said he hoped the sanctuary would be a place "for all who cherish religious freedom."
"Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a Christian duty," Father Kiely 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."
Many Christians are unaware of the gravity of the situation faced by their brothers and sisters in the faith, Father Kiely noted.
A survey taken earlier this year bore witness to the problem highlighted by the priest.
According to a nationwide poll surveying the views of American Catholics on global Christian persecution, U.S. Catholics are more concerned about "climate change" and the global migrant crisis than the sufferings of their co-religionists.
The poll, carried out by Aid to the Church in Need-USA/McLaughlin & Associates and published on March 1, found that despite some awareness of Christian persecution, U.S. Catholics say they are less concerned about Christian persecution than about human trafficking, poverty, climate change, and the global refugee crisis.
When asked to rank the intensity of their concern regarding global issues, U.S. Catholics placed Christian persecution dead last on the list, with human trafficking garnering 86 percent, poverty 86 percent, climate change 74 percent, refugee crisis 74 percent, and Christian persecution just 69 percent.
"What the survey reveals quite clearly," said George Marlin, chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA (ACNUSA), "is that there is a need to increase the engagement level of the US Catholic Church when it comes to global Christian persecution--both at the grassroots and leadership levels. The issue has to become a priority."