ROME — Pope Francis urged Christians to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters Sunday, reminding his listeners that those who suffer persecution are “many.”
During his weekly Angelus message, the pontiff recalled yesterday’s commemoration of the U.N.’s world day for remembering victims of religiously motivated violence.
“Let us pray for these, our brothers and sisters, and let us also sustain with our prayer and solidarity those, and there are many, who today are persecuted because of their faith and religion. There are many,” the Pope said.
Since his election in 2013, Francis has often commented on Christian persecution, insisting that “the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries,” as Vatican News recalled Saturday.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis said that an authentic Christian witness often stirs up anger and hatred in the worldly-minded, which explains the rampant persecution of Christians in the world today.
Reflecting on the gospel beatitude “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” the Pope said that the practice of Christian virtue stings the ungodly to the core, unleashing hostility and violence.
The worldly “can only reject poverty or meekness or purity and declare life according to the Gospel to be an error and a problem, and therefore as something to be vilified,” he said, and so the world judges Christians to be “idealists or fanatics.”
“The Christian witness, which does so much good to so many people who follow it, irritates those with a worldly mentality,” he said, and “they experience it as a reproach.”
“It is odd and striking to see how hostility grows to the point of fury in the persecutions of the martyrs,” he said. “Just look at the persecutions of the last century, of the European dictatorships, which give rise to fury against Christians, against the Christian witness and against the heroism of Christians.”
And yet in the midst of this vehement persecution, Christians are able to rejoice, he continued, even though they are rejected by the world, because they have “found something worth more than the whole world.”
“It is painful to remember that, at this moment, there are many Christians who suffer persecution in various areas of the world,” he continued, “and we must hope and pray that their tribulation will be stopped as soon as possible.”
“There are so many; today’s martyrs are more numerous than the martyrs of the first centuries,” he said, and “these Christians are the bleeding members of the body of Christ, which is the Church.”