Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal for persecuted Christians during his address prior to the recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter’s today. The Holy Father’s words coincided with the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.
While noting that some may think that the feast of his martyrdom may be out of place on the day after Christmas, the Pope told the faithful that in reality, the Feast of St. Stephen “is in full harmony with the profound significance of Christmas.”
“In martyrdom, violence is conquered by love, death by life,” the Pope said. “The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their “birth in heaven.” Therefore, we celebrate today the “nativity” of Stephen, which in depth springs from the Nativity of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love Him into the dawn of a new life!
The memory of St. Stephen’s death, he continued, helps in dissolving the false, fairy tale image of Christmas. His death is a reminder that divine salvation passes “through the narrow door of the Cross.
The Holy Father then prayed for those discriminated against for giving witness to Christ in the world. ”I am sure that, unfortunately, they are more numerous today than in the early days of the Church. There are so many!,” he exclaimed.
Religious persecution, he noted, occurs not only in countries freedom is not guaranteed, but also in countries where human rights are guaranteed “on paper”.
“For a Christian, this is not surprising, because Jesus foretold it as an opportunity to give witness. However, on the civil level, injustice must be denounced and eliminated,” he said.
Prior to the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis led the faithful gathered in a moment of silent prayer followed by a Hail Mary for those suffering religious persecution in the world. (J.A.E.)
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For the full text of the Holy Father’s address, go to: