Pope Francis said that in our times, the shedding of blood for Christ has become a “shared experience” of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals, which is “deeper and stronger” than the differences that still separate Christians.
In a message to the Global Christian Forum Thursday, Francis reached out especially to the many Christians throughout the world who face martyrdom every day, suffering persecution for their faith in Christ.
“I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere throughout the world,” Francis said. “Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters.”
The Global Christian Forum has just concluded its meeting in the Albanian capital of Tirana, studying the topic “Discrimination, Persecution, Martyrdom: Following Christ Together,” which ran from November 2-4.
“In various parts of the world,” Francis continued, “witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences that still separate our churches and ecclesial communities.”
“The communio martyrum (communion of martyrs) is the greatest sign of our journeying together,” he said.
The Pope also praised the gathering for giving a voice to the many victims of injustice and violence, and expressed his spiritual closeness to them and desire that common suffering could lead to a greater union among Christians.
“May the martyrs of today, belonging to many Christian traditions, help us to understand that all the baptized are members of the same Body of Christ, His Church,” he said. “Let us see this profound truth as a call to persevere on our ecumenical journey towards full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding.”
In its final message, the Global Christian Forum called on perpetrators to stop their violence; on governments to respect and protect religious freedom, especially to protect Christians and others persecuted for their faith; and the media to report properly the violations of religious freedom and the discrimination and persecution of Christians.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.