ROME, Italy– In his ongoing campaign against Christian persecution, Pope Francis underscored the responsibility of the international community Monday in his address to the pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, urging governments not to stand idly by while anti-Christian violence continues.
The world must not “sit by mute and inactive in the face of this intolerable crime,” said Francis to the large crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, while he called the persecution “a distressing violation of the most basic human rights.”
In a thinly veiled criticism of the world response to the crimes of the Islamic State, Francis appealed to the international community not to “turn a blind eye” to the suffering of Christians.
Reports around Italy Tuesday spoke of a veritable “about face” in the Vatican position toward ISIS and Christian persecution, with both papal statements and official Vatican addresses becoming more and more explicit in their condemnation of the Islamic State.
In two separate addresses before the UN Human Rights Council, Vatican representative Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi condemned the actions of the Islamic State by name, declaring it guilty of “unspeakable crimes” and “repulsive and damnable” atrocities, including the use of children as suicide bombers.
The Pope’s strong words Monday moved the secretary of the Italian bishops conference to make a public statement, emphasizing that Francis was just “calling a spade a spade,” while insisting that he was not trying to call forth a “holy war.”
Be that as it may, the Pope’s language has been intensifying in recent weeks and he has not hesitated to point out what he sees as culpable inaction vis-à-vis the Islamist threat.
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 in his packed speech Monday.
“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.
Francis’ appeal followed on 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 Christian students in Kenya.
The Pope was also building on his Good Friday denunciation of what he called a “complicit silence” regarding the targeting of Christians throughout the world.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome