Pope Francis invites prayers for people persecuted for their religion – Catholic Outlook


Recalling the recurrence on Saturday of the International Day for Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion, Pope Francis invites everyone on Sunday to pray for those persecuted for their religion.

Pope Francis recalled the International Day for Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief during the Angelus Sunday address.

“Let us pray for them, our brothers and sisters, and let us support them with our prayer and our solidarity, even those who are persecuted today – and there are many – because of their faith and their religion”, he said. he declares.

The Holy Father has repeatedly addressed the subject of the persecution of Christians since he became Pope in March 2013.

In fact, just over a month after his election, Pope Francis said something that he has said repeatedly since:

“The Church has more martyrs today than in the first centuries.

No more martyrs now

Pope Francis pronounced this sentence in a homily in which he commented on the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He attributed Stephen’s death to “slander”, even calling Stephen a “victim of slander”. From Stephen to the present day, Pope Francis said, many Christians have witnessed the Gospel in the same way with great courage:

“The age of martyrs is not yet over, even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs today than in the first centuries. The Church has many men and women who are slandered by calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed for hatred of Jesus, for hatred of the faith: some are killed because they teach catechism, others are killed because they carry the cross… Today, in many countries, they are slandered, they are persecuted… it is our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this time of martyrs.

The persecution today

Not even a year later, he repeated the phrase in a homily on March 4, 2014. He was reflecting on Jesus’ response to Peter’s question about what they would receive to follow him. Jesus said that those who followed him would receive many things, including persecution.

“And so we have persecutions: with words, with insults, the things they said about Christians in the first centuries, the condemnations, the imprisonment…. But we easily forget. We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labor camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the Communists: there are so many! To be Christians! And still today…. But (people say) ‘today we are better educated and these things don’t exist anymore’. Yes they do! And I tell you that there are more martyrs today than in the early days of the Church. They are doomed to have a Bible. They cannot carry a crucifix. … And let’s have a thought – it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted: they cannot have the Gospel book or a Bible because they are persecuted.

Think about the persecuted

On Boxing Day 2016, Pope Francis reiterated the phrase in the context of the feast of St. Stephen:

“Even today, to bear witness to the light and to the truth, the Church undergoes, in different places, harsh persecutions, until the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in the faith endure abuse and violence, and are hated because of Jesus! I will tell you something: the martyrs of today are more numerous than those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the first centuries, here in Rome, we read so much cruelty towards Christians; I tell you, there is the same cruelty today, and to a greater extent, against Christians. Today, we should think of those who are suffering from the persecution and be close to them with our affection, our prayers and also our tears. Yesterday, Christmas Day, persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed cathedral: it is an example of fidelity to the Gospel.

Martyrdom of daily fidelity

In a general audience on September 25, 2019, we hear the same words spoken by Pope Francis. Once again he reflected on the martyrdom of Saint Stephen.

There are more martyrs today than there were at the beginning of the life of the Church, and martyrs are everywhere. Today the Church is rich in martyrs, she is drenched in their blood: “The blood of Christians is seed” (Tertullian, Apologies, 50:13) and ensures the growth and fruitfulness of the People of God. The martyrs are not only “saints”, but rather flesh and blood men and women who – as the Revelation says – “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7 : 14). They are the real winners.

“Let us also ask the Lord today that by looking at the martyrs of yesterday and today, we can learn to live a full life, welcoming the martyrdom of daily fidelity to the Gospel and conforming to the Christ.

Martyrs of today

Reflecting on the first reading recounting the martyrdom of Saint Stephen on April 28 of this year, Pope Francis cited both modern examples of persecution and those who perished in the Holocaust of the last century. The same dynamic used to kill St Stephen is still at work, he said: groups of people deeming others to be deserving of death.

“It is happening today to martyrs today: judges do not have the opportunity to do justice to those who have already been tried. Think of Asia Bibi, for example, whom we saw: ten years in prison because she had been judged on the basis of slander and a people demanding death. In the face of this avalanche of fake news that shape public opinion, very often nothing can be done, nothing can be done. In relation to that, I think a lot about the Shoah. The Shoah is one example. An opinion was created against a people, and then it became normal to say: “Yes, yes, we must kill them, we must put them to death”. One way to go about getting rid of people who bother, who bother others.

In his homily on March 27, Pope Francis used another specific example he had heard from a bishop:

“Some bishops from one of the countries that suffered an atheistic dictatorship told me about it, and even went into the smallest details. For example, on the Monday after Easter, teachers were asked to ask the children, “What did you eat yesterday? And some of the kids would answer, “Eggs.” And those who said “eggs” were followed to see if they were Christians, because in those countries they ate eggs on Easter Sunday. Up to this point, to see, to spy, to find out where there was a Christian, to kill him. It is relentless persecution.

Blessed are the persecuted

But the Pope also reminds us that the last word is not persecution, but the happiness of those who find beatitude. Pope Francis reflected on the Final Beatitude at his April 29 General Audience earlier this year: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

The cause of the persecution, notes Pope Francis, is the life of Christians rooted in the Beatitudes.

“The poor in spirit, those who cry, the meek, those who thirst for holiness, for mercy, the pure in heart and peacemakers can lead to persecution for Christ’s sake. Ultimately, however, this persecution is a cause of joy and great reward in heaven. The path of the Beatitudes is a paschal path which leads us from a life in harmony with the world to that of God, from a life led by the flesh – that is to say by selfishness – to a guided life. by the Spirit.

“It is painful to remember that right now, many Christians in various parts of the world are suffering persecution, and we must hope and pray that their trials will end soon. They are numerous: the martyrs of today are more numerous than the martyrs of the first centuries. Let us express our closeness to these brothers and sisters. We are one body and these Christians are the bleeding members of the body of Christ which is the Church.

Pope Francis ended his catechesis that morning by reminding us that whenever we face persecution for our belief in Jesus, we are not alone. Jesus is always present with us.

“In persecutions, there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who comforts us and the strength of the Holy Spirit who helps us to move forward. Let us not be disheartened when a life faithful to the gospel attracts persecution from people. There is the Holy Spirit who supports us on this journey.

With our thanks to Vatican News and Sr Bernadette M Reis fsp, where this article originally appeared.

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