During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis explained that the persecutions Early Christians faced are far from being something of the past. He stressed that there were also persecutions in the 20th Century, as well as today, with some Christians not allowed to have a Bible.
"In the Nazi and Comunist prisons there were a lot of Christians. For being Christians! Even today. 'But, Father, today we have more culture and things like that don't happen.' They still happen! I tell you: today there are more martyrs than in the times of the Early Christians.”
Pope Francis added that being Christian simply means following Christ, and that is far from any worldly success.
EXCERPT OF THE POPE'S HOMILY
(Source: Vatican Radio)
"It’s as if Jesus said, ”Yes, you have left everything and you will receive here on earth many things: but with persecutions!” Like a salad with the oil of persecution: always! This is what the Christian gains and this is the road for the person who wants to follow Jesus, because it’s the road that He himself trod.: He was persecuted! It’s the road of humbling yourself. That’s what Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians. ‘Jesus emptied himself and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross’. This is the reality of Christian life.”
"This is because the world does not tolerate the divinity of Christ. It doesn’t tolerate the preaching of the Gospel. It does not tolerate the Beatitudes. And so we have persecutions: with words, with insults, the things that they said about Christians in the early centuries, the condemnations, imprisonment…. But we easily forget. We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labour camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the communists: So many of them! For being Christians! And even today…. But (people say) ‘today we are better educated and these things no longer exist’. Yes they do! And I tell you that today there are more martyrs than during the early times of the Church.”
"They are condemned for having a Bible. They can’t wear a crucifix. And this is the road of Jesus. But it is a joyful road because our Lord never tests us beyond what we can bear. Christian life is not a commercial advantage, it’s not making a career: It’s simply following Jesus! But when we follow Jesus this happens. Let’s think about if we have within us the desire to be courageous in bearing witness to Jesus. And let’s spare a thought it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted: they cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”