On Bearing Witness

Here is a translation of the address delivered by Pope Francis before and after the recitation of the Regina Caeli yesterday to the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

I would like to reflect briefly on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that is read in the liturgy of this third Sunday of Easter. This text reports that the first preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem filled the city with the news that Jesus was truly risen, according to the Scriptures, and that he was the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets. The high priests and the leaders of the city tried to destroy the community of believers in Christ at its birth and had the Apostles imprisoned, ordering them not to stop teaching in his name. But Peter and the other 11 answered: “God must be obeyed rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus … God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior … and we are the witnesses of these things together with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:29-32). So, they had the Apostles flogged and ordered them again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. And they went away, the Scripture says, “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name of Jesus” (5:41).

I ask myself: Where did the first disciples find the power for this witness of theirs? And, moreover: Where did their joy and courage to preach despite the obstacles and violence come from? Let us not forget that the Apostles were simple people; they were not scribes, doctors of the law, nor did they belong to the priestly class. How were they able, with their limits and adversaries among the authorities, to fill Jerusalem with their teaching (cf. Acts 5:28)? It is clear that only the presence of the risen Lord with them and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this fact. The Lord who was with them and the Spirit who moved them to preach explain this extraordinary fact. Their faith was based upon an experience of the dead and risen Christ that was so powerful and personal that they were not afraid of anyone or anything, and indeed they saw persecutions as a badge of honor that allowed them to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and to be like him, bearing witness with their life.

This story about the first Christian community tells us something very important, which is relevant for the Church in every age and for us too: when a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in him, he experiences his presence in life and the power of his Resurrection and he cannot do anything but communicate this experience. And if this person meets with misunderstanding or adversity, he conducts himself as Jesus did in his Passion: he responds with love and with the power of truth. 

Praying the “Regina Caeli” together, asking for the help of Mary Most Holy that the Church might proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord with boldness and courage in all the world and bear it valid witness with signs of fraternal love. Fraternal love is the nearest testimony that we can give that Jesus is alive among us, the risen Jesus. Let us pray in a special way for persecuted Christians; in this time there are many Christians who suffer persecution, many, many, in many countries: let us pray for them, with love, from our heart. May they feel the living and comforting presence of the risen Lord.

[Following the recitation of the “Regina Caeli” the Holy Father greeted those present:]

Yesterday in Venice Don Luca Passi, a priest of Bergamo who lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and founded the Lay Work of Santa Dorotea and the Institute of the Sister Teachers of Santa Dorotea, was proclaimed blessed. Let us thank God for the witness of this holy man!

Today in Italy we celebrate the Day of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. This year the theme is “The new generations beyond the crisis.” This institution, born from the mind and heart of Fr. Agostino Gemelli, and with much popular support, has prepared thousands and thousands of young people to be competent and responsible citizens, builders of the common good. I invite you always to support this institution so that it continue to offer an optimal formation to new generations to face the challenges of the present.


I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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