With prayers for Holy Land, cardinal takes possession of titular church
Published: October 26, 2012
ROME (CNS) -- In a tiny 10th-century Rome church honoring the martyr St. Sebastian, U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien offered special prayers for the "suffering Christian Palestine" and for all Christians to have courage in the face of persecution. The cardinal, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, formally took possession Oct. 25 of the Church of St. Sebastian on the Palatine Hill, the Rome church he was assigned when he became a cardinal in February. "Sebastian was a Roman soldier who was tortured for the faith, hands at his back and tied to a stake, his body shot through with arrows -- a favorite portrait for medieval artists," the cardinal said in his homily. "In a bit of ecclesial irony, by the way, St. Sebastian is the patron saint of archers," he told the congregation, which included knights and dames of the Holy Sepulcher, dressed in their capes emblazoned with the red Jerusalem Cross. "Whether by the grace of God or poor marksmanship, he survived the assaults but was later clubbed to death and buried not far from here," he added. Cardinal O'Brien, the former archbishop of Baltimore, chose Mass prayers and readings from the votive Mass of Our Lady, Queen of Palestine, patroness of the Holy Sepulcher order, which supports Catholics in the Holy Land through prayers, financial offerings and regular pilgrimages. Concelebrating the Mass with Cardinal O'Brien were Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem; Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, assessor of the order; and Canadian Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec, grand prior of the order's Quebec lieutenancy. Cardinal O'Brien said the order's members are "honor guards for the care of the Holy Sepulcher, defending Christ's empty tomb no longer with the force of arms, but rather by their constant witness of faith."
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