Pope Francis: Angelus appeal on behalf of persecuted Christians

2013-12-26 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed on Thursday for Christians who suffer violence, discrimination and all manner of injustice because of their faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel. The Pope’s call for prayerful solidarity with persecuted faithful came on the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr, and a day after bomb attacks on a Catholic church and a Christian neighbourhood market in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed thirty-eight people. “We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds,” said Pope Francis. He went on to say, “This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realized.” Listen:

The Holy Father explained that, even in countries that have protections for freedom and human rights “on paper,” believers in general, “and especially Christians, encounter [abridgements of their liberty – It. limitazioni] and discrimination.”

Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks to note that there are indeed a great many Christians who suffer in these ways – more even than in the time of the first Christians – and paused to lead the faithful in praying the Ave, Maria! on their behalf. He went on to say that Christians ought not be surprised by such mistreatment, since Jesus said such things would happen and that they offer good occasion for profound witness. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Injustice in the civil [sphere] must be denounced and eliminated.”

The Holy Father’s appeal came at the end of his reflection ahead of the traditional St Stephen’s Day Angelus prayer, during which he spoke of the holy deacon and proto-martyr’s feast as being, “in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas.” Pope Francis added, “In martyrdom, in fact, violence is overcome by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their ‘birth’ into heaven. So [on this day] we celebrate the ‘birth’ of Stephen, which springs from the depths of the birth of Christ. Jesus turns the death of those who love Him into the dawn of new life!”