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Pope Francis: More Christian Martyrs Today Than in First Centuries

Continuing his string of appeals calling attention to the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world, Pope Francis employed forceful language Monday in his midday address to the pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, decrying violence against Christians and exhorting the international community not to stand by without taking meaningful action.

Everyone is called to a “spiritual journey of intense prayer, concrete participation, and tangible help in the defense and protection of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, exiled, killed, and beheaded just for being Christians,” Francis said to the crowd of tens of thousands in the sunny square.

“They are our martyrs of today, and there are so many, we can say that they are more numerous than in the first centuries,” he said.

The Pope took on a particularly energetic tone when addressing the international community, exhorting it not to “sit by mute and inert in the face of this intolerable crime,” which he called “a distressing violation of the most basic human rights.”

“I sincerely hope that the international community will not look the other way,” he said.

Francis’ appeal followed an Easter message delivered on Sunday that catalogued some of the worst cases of conflict and violence throughout the world. He offered prayers for Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the victims of the recent jihadist attack on students in Kenya.

On Monday, the Pope also thanked the delegation of the Shalom Movement present in Rome, which has been working to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians in the world.

Francis also enjoined the Christians present to let the Easter message take hold in their lives. “The good news of the Resurrection should shine on our face, in our feelings and attitudes, and in the way we treat others,” he said.

“We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when His light illuminates the dark moments of our lives and we are able to share it with others,” he said.

Proclaiming Christ’s resurrection means “knowing how to smile with those who smile and weep with those who weep,” he said, and “walking beside those who are sad and tempted to lose hope.”

It also means “announcing our experience of faith to those who are searching for meaning and happiness,” he said. “With our attitude, our witness, with our lives, we say: Jesus is risen! We say it with our whole soul.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.

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