MANILA - Catholic churches and affiliate institutions in the Philippines raised red banners and lit their facades in red on Wednesday as a sign of solidarity with Christians all over the world who are being persecuted and killed because of their faith.
At 5:30 p.m., masses were simultaneously held in churches across the country, signalling the beginning of the campaign called Red Wednesday.
At the Manila Cathedral, the newly-appointed Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia led the mass while Marawi Bishop Edwin Dela Peña delivered the homily.
The prelate of the war-torn city of Marawi said in 2016 alone, there were 90,000 Christians who died a martyr's death while half a billion are still not free to practice their faith in public.
"The Christians we honor today gave their lives as martyrs while countless others continue to suffer simply because they are Christians," dela Peña said. "And here is the rub. They are not only persecuted, but often times forgotten mainly because their fate is not reported in the news."
Dela Peña turned emotional as he recalled the destruction of Marawi City especially the Catholic dwellings during the five-month long siege of the Maute terrorists. He also likened Marawi's devastation to what happened in Mosul in Iran and Aleppo in Syria which were destroyed after intense battles to dispel forces of the terror group ISIS.
"We never thought that this persecution of Christians that started in the Middle East, the upsurge of violent terrorism and extremism of the radical Islam would come to the Philippines," the prelate said.
"Not only they burned the cathedral, they tried to make it dramatic by bringing with them cameramen to record the act of desecration."
After the mass, the bishops, clergy, and others who attended the mass went outside, lighted candles, and watched as the facades of the cathedral was bathed in red light, a color that the Catholic Church associates with martyrdom.
The main organizer of the campaign, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines, said at least 82 ecclesiastical territories, churches, and universities across the country joined the event.
The Red Wednesday campaign is also being held in other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Italy, and France.
Here's a look at some of the churches that joined the Red Wednesday campaign:
Red banners are raised around the Minor Basilica and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros, Manila for the Red Wednesday Campaign. Photo from ACN official Facebook page
Minor Basilica and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in City of Malolos, Bulacan. Photo from Malolos Cathedral official Facebook page
Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila. Photo from Quiapo Church official Facebook page
National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Parañaque. Photo from the Baclaran Church official Facebook page.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Cubao, Quezon City. Photo from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubao official Facebook page.
Cathedral of the Our Lady of the Assumption in San Fernando, Pampanga. Photo from Gracie Rutao, ABS-CBN News