This morning, Pope Francis condemned the brutal slaying of 21 Coptic Christians perpetrated by ISIS in Libya over the weekend, proclaiming them martyrs killed out of hatred of their Christian faith.
At 10:30 am Monday, the Pope met with Rev. John P. Chalmers, Moderator of the Church of Scotland (Reformed), along with other representatives of the Church of Scotland.
At the end of his prepared speech, the Pope switched to his native language and continued off the cuff in Spanish, turning to the events in Libya, and said that the witness of these brother Christians should move all Christian communions to draw closer to one another.
“Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians,” the Pope said. “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’”
“They were killed simply because they were Christians,” he said.
Francis made reference to the speech that Chalmers had given, in which he spoke of what is happening in the land of Jesus. “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard,” the Pope said.
“It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants,” the Pope continued. “They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
The Pope drew inspiration from this witness to urge Christians to work harder toward unity.
“As we recall these brothers and sisters who were killed only because they confessed Christ,” he said, “I ask that we encourage one another to go forward with this ecumenism that is emboldening us, the ecumenism of blood.”
“The martyrs belong to all Christians,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.