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Pope Francis: Many Christian Martyrs ‘Do Not Make the Headlines’

Pope Francis presides over a canonization ceremony in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, on October 14, 2018. - Pope Francis canonizes two of the most important and contested figures of the 20th-century Catholic Church, declaring Pope Paul VI and the martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero as models of saintliness …
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Pope Francis reiterated his belief that we live in an age of Christian martyrs Wednesday, even if many of them do not get the attention they deserve.

“The Church grows with the blood of the martyrs, men and women who give their lives for Jesus,” Francis tweeted on the feast day of the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen. The pope’s words echoed those of Tertullian, a second-century Christian who wrote that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

“Today there are many, even if they do not make the headlines,” Francis added.

In his yearly Christmas address last week, Francis gave a shout-out to persecuted Christians throughout the world who suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ.

“A particular thought goes to our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Birth of the Lord in difficult, if not hostile situations,” he said, “especially where the Christian community is a minority, often vulnerable or not taken into account.”

Last Friday as well, the pope highlighted the sufferings of persecuted Christians around the globe and said that the Church is living in a new era of martyrdom.

We are experiencing “a new age of martyrs,” the pope told members of the Roman Curia in his yearly Christmas address to them. “It seems that the cruel and vicious persecution of the Roman Empire has not yet ended.”

“A new Nero is always being born to oppress believers solely because of their faith in Christ,” he said, in reference to the despotic Roman emperor Nero who reigned from 54 to 68 AD and began the systematic persecution of Christians. Nero is believed to have been responsible for the execution of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul as well as numerous other early Christians.

In his address, the pope said that new “extremist groups spring up and target churches, places of worship, ministers and members of the faithful,” a reference to ongoing, targeted attacks from the Islamic State and other Muslim extremists.

“Cabals and cliques new and old live by feeding on hatred and hostility to Christ, the Church and believers,” Francis said. “How many Christians even now bear the burden of persecution, marginalization, discrimination and injustice throughout our world.”

Christian martyrs, on the other hand, “continue courageously to embrace death rather than deny Christ,” he said. “How difficult it is, even today, freely to practice the faith in all those parts of the world where religious freedom and freedom of conscience do not exist.”

As Breitbart News reported, this month a Pakistani court sentenced two Christians in Punjab to death for the crime of blasphemy while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under President Xi Jinping has been increasing its persecution of Christians, demolishing crosses, closing churches, and harassing believers.

Some three quarters of religious persecution around the  world is directed at Christians, with a half billion Christians facing serious persecution around the globe.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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