Dear brethren! There is no Christian country where the veneration of Our Lady is unknown. To the greater part of Christians she is not only the Mother of Christ but mother of the promised Messiah, Mother of God, Theotokos. In our eastern church during the holy liturgy, after the act of consecration we first of all solemnly commemorate Mary. “Dastojna josc sapraudy nazyvac…”(from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom). Today we are in Walsingham and gladly repeat this liturgical hymn on honour of Our Lady of Walsingham particularly venerated by peoples of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless we are here although in a very modest way the representatives of the very different European countries and with our thoughts and with our love we are at the same time in Zyrovicy in Byelorussia where there is still the Orthodox monastery and the famous icon of Our Lady once upon a time according to the old tradition appeared on the tree to shepherds and later the same icon was venerated not only in Byelorussia but also in Rome as Madonna del Pascolo in the church of the holy martyrs Sergius and Bacchus. Not so far from Zyrovicy there is another much venerated picture of Our Lady in Vilnia capital of today’s Lithuanian Soviet Republic and center of Marian worship. If we go a bit further towards the West we cannot but mention Częstochowa, the famous place of the polish fathers, monastery with the icon of our lady. Neighbours to Poland are Slovakia, Czechs, Moravia and they have many places privileged by special veneration of the Mother of God. I would like to mention some of them only. In Slovakia, in Sastin, the basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows, also very known place of veneration of Our Lady in Levoca- the day of feast the 2nd July. In Bohemia – Svata Hora and Staro-Boleslav. In Moravia – all these three countries in Czechoslovakia – Hostyn, Svaty Kopecek and famous Velehrad. In Hungary in Mariapovcs the place of the weeping Madonna. In Latvia – also neighbour to us – Our Lady of Aglona. There are quite a few places with a particular veneration of our Lady in Slovenia, in Croatia, also in the Orthodox Serbia and in Russia.
Today we are gathered before the throne of Our Lady of Walsingham and through her merciful intersession we hope to obtain help for our particular churches. In each of our countries there are not only restrictions or limitations but as bishop’s said ‘true persecution.’ For instance, in Lithuania there is only one small seminary with a limited number of candidates for the priesthood. There are more priests dying yearly then are ordained. In Byelorussia for about three millions Catholics there are very few priests, in 1980 there were only 103 and not one Catholic bishop. In the Ukraine millions of Catholics of the Eastern Rite are not recognised as a religious community and a few heroic priests are doing their pastoral service secretly and some of them are suffering in prisons or concentration camps. Catholics of eastern rite in Romania live under tyrannical condition. Dear brethren, when we think about the church in need we should think and speak about the persecuted church also. Persecution is an inalienable part of the Christian church. As before Christ the prophets were persecuted: Elias by Jesabel, Micheas by Acheb, Jeremiah by King Sedekias, and John the Baptist by King Herod. Jesus Himself was persecuted and died as persecuted Just one. He foretold: the same would happen to his disciples. According to the accepted tradition all the apostles except St John died as martyrs. The prophet Jeremiah spoke once about the persecutors: “In vain I have struck down your sons you did not accept your correction, your sword devoured your prophets like a destructive lion.” The highest point of persecution will be achieved by the Antichrist in the last days. When will be seen the disastrous abomination, when the rebel will enthrone himself in God’s sanctuary and will claim that he is God. When the prostitute woman seen by the apostle John in vision will be drunk with the blood of martyrs of Jesus. The New Testament and the history of the church prove to us that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The Italian writer Papini in his famous book ‘The History of the Christ’ said: “Nothing remains in failed human memory except the truths written in blood.” Some scholars are of the opinion that in the pre-Constantine era before this Emperor proclaimed freedom for the church there were 100 000 martyrs. After Constantine till our days there have been millions in every age, in every country. In this country where today we enjoy such a freedom in the time of Henry VIII and in time of some of his cruel successors. In Japan in China, in Uganda, in Vietnam, in Nazi Germany, in Soviet Union the church acquired a deeper understanding of martyrdom. Through martirium we are united with Christ, with the suffering Christ and with him glorified and in his resurrection. Martyrdom is like the sacrament of baptism – it cleanses man from all sins and gives him the grace of eternal life. O yes, martyrdom is the sin and shame for persecutor but glory and noblest privilege to Christ’s followers. But martyrdom for Christ is possible only where the Christian faith is alive. Let me give you an example of how the faith in its essential elements could be preserved. This year there died in Belgium in odour of sanctity bishop Boleslav Sloskan by nationality Latvian whose representatives we see today with cross. By church appointment he was Apostolic administrator of Minsk and Mahilou in Byelorussia, in my country. He was prisoner for many years in the Soviet Union. Once, when he could leave the concentration camp it happened during the winter, he had no place in which to stay and outside a house he certainly would die of cold. Tired from walking he saw a light far away in the window. He approached, he knocked the door. A voice from inside asked him : “Who are you?” “A bishop”, – was the answer. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” “Yes”, he said. “Do you venerate Our Lady?” Again insisted woman. “Yes”, it was the same answer. “If so, you are welcome, come in, bishop.” Well, that woman who questioned bishop Sloskan did not even know what the word bishop meant but she believed in Jesus Christ and she venerated the Mother of God.
Dear brethren, let us that through the intercession of Our Lady venerated in all our countries which we here humbly represent and not represent, through the intersession of Our Lady of Walsingham, today our mother and hope in all our countries particularly represented here today there may be freedom. But first of all, faith in God, in his Son Jesus and love between man through the Holy Spirit. Peace to you all! The Lord be with you all. Amen.