Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square Monday afternoon, on the Feast of St. Stephen:
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BEFORE THE ANGELUS
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The joy of Christmas fills our hearts also today, while the Liturgy has us celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the first martyr, inviting us to receive the testimony that he left us with his sacrifice. It is in fact the glorious testimony of Christian martyrdom, suffered out of love for Jesus Christ – martyrdom that continues to be present in the history of the Church, from Stephen down to our days.
Today’s Gospel spoke to us of this testimony (cf. Matthew 10:17-22). Jesus announced in advance to His disciples the rejection and persecution they would meet: “You will be hated by all because of my name” (v. 22). But why does the world persecute Christians? The world hates Christians for the same reason it hated Jesus, because He brought the light of God but the world preferred the darkness to conceal its evil works. We recall that during the Last Supper, Jesus Himself prayed to the Father that He might defend us from the evil worldly spirit. To follow Jesus means to follow His light, which was lighted on the night of Bethlehem, and to abandon the darkness of the world.
The first martyr Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, was stoned because he confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God. The Only-Begotten who came into the world invites every believer to choose the way of light and life. This is the meaning of His coming among us. Loving the Lord and obeying His voice, deacon Stephen chose Christ, Life and Light for every man. Choosing truth, he became at the same time a victim of the mystery of iniquity present in the world. However, Stephen triumphed in Christ.
Today, also, in order to render witness to the light and truth, the Church is experiencing harsh persecutions in different places, to the supreme trial of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in the faith are suffering abuses, violence and hatred because of Jesus! I will tell you something, today’s martyrs are greater in number than those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the first centuries, here at Rome, we read about so much cruelty to Christians; I tell you, there is the same cruelty towards Christians today, and in greater number. Today we want to think of those that suffer persecution, and to be close to them with our affection, our prayer and also our tears. Yesterday, the Day of Christmas, Christians persecuted in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed Cathedral: it is an example of fidelity to the Gospel. Despite the trials and dangers, they witness courageously their belonging to Christ and they live the Gospel by being committed to the least, the neglected, doing good to all with distinctions, thus witnessing charity in truth.
In making room in our heart for the Son of God who gives Himself to us at Christmas, we renew our joyful and courageous will to follow Him faithfully as our sole guide, persevering in living according to the evangelical mentality and refusing the mentality of the powerful of this world.
We raise our prayer to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, may she guide and support us always in our path following Jesus Christ, whom we contemplate in the Crib in the cave and who is the faithful Witness of God the Father.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]
AFTER THE ANGELUS:
I express my heartfelt condolence for the sad news of the Russian plane that crashed into the Black Sea. May the Lord console the beloved Russian people and the families of the passengers who were on board: journalists, crew and the excellent choir and orchestra of the Armed forces. May the Blessed Virgin Mary sustain the search operations underway. In 2004 the Choir performed in the Vatican for the 26th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s pontificate: let us pray for them.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the joyful Christian atmosphere that shines from the Birth of Jesus, I greet you and thank you for your presence. I renew to you all, who have come from Italy and from different Nations, my best wishes for peace and serenity: may these be for you and your relatives days of joy and fraternity. I greet and send best wishes to all the persons who are called Stephen and Stephanie!
In the course of these days, I have received so many good wishes from all over the world. It being impossible for me to respond to each one, I express to all today my heartfelt gratitude, especially for the gift of prayer. Thank you from my heart! May the Lord repay you with His generosity!
Happy feast day! Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]