By John Newton, reporting from Madrid
ROSARIES and medals blessed by Pope John Paul II were given to young Catholics from persecuted countries at World Youth Day.
Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, who are holding an exhibition about Christian Persecution as part of World Youth Dayâ€™s cultural programme in Madrid, gave the blessed objects to visitors to the exhibition from countries where Christians experience violence because of their religion.
The rosaries, miraculous medals, and medallions of the Sacred and Immaculate hearts given to the pilgrims were blessed by Pope John Paul II during an audience on 20th August 1986.
Among the first young people to receive the rosaries and medals were pilgrims from Egypt.
Edward Clancy, ACN (USA)â€™s Director of Evangelisation and Outreach presented the first pouch of blessed items to a young man from Egypt.
Mr Clancy said: â€œInitially, he was very surprised to be given the gift and seemed to be deeply moved by the gesture.
â€œHe understood that the rosary and other devotional objects crossed cultural boundaries and that we were saying that although we may be in different parts of the world we are still praying for you and thinking of you.â€
A priest from Alexandria in Egypt â€“ who asked to remain anonymous for fear of possible attack â€“ spoke out about the terrible situation affecting Christians in the country.
Speaking about his groupâ€™s experience of World Youth Day, he said: â€œFor the young people it is like paradise here â€“ because we live with trouble every day in Egypt.â€
Referring to the problems young Christians experience, particularly women who can be targeted by kidnappers, he said: â€œThey are scared and nervous â€“ the young people â€“ because of the religious situation [in Egypt].
â€œThey never know what will happen â€“ especially with the girls being abducted â€“ that is why they feel happy here, that is why they are in paradise.â€
The priest, who took his group to the ACN exhibit, added that living in a country where they were a small minority they were strengthened in their faith by seeing they were part of the universal church â€“ although the young people were physically very tired as they had not been getting much sleep at World Youth Day.
â€œBut spiritually they are very happy. They see so many Christians from all over the world, so they feel very happy.â€
More than 800 young pilgrims from Egypt were in Madrid for World Youth Day.
To learn more about ACNâ€™s help for Egyptian Christians visit www.acnuk.org/egypt
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charityâ€™s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167 or 07891 920 013.