In the wake of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) latest slaughter of Christians in Libya, Pope Francis spoke out Tuesday to express his “great distress and sadness” at the news of the “shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians.”
In a message to the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Pope reached out “in heartfelt spiritual solidarity” to assure the bishop of his closeness in prayer “at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.”
“I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Francis said.
The Pope also reiterated that the violent persecution Christians throughout the world are suffering binds them together in what he has called an “ecumenism of blood.” Here, there is no room for divisions among Christians, he said, since all suffer for the same faith.
“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant,” Francis said. “Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”
The Pope also appealed to all men and women of good will to hear the plea of the Christian martyrs that cries out to them, especially the leaders of nations.
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands,” he said.
Francis noted sadly that the massacre of Christians has cast a pall over the happiness of the season. The Easter joy of the risen Christ this year is “tinged with profound sorrow,” he said.
“Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.