In his Tuesday morning Mass, Pope Francis talked about the persecution of Christians. Reflecting on the day's readings he highlighted that just like the first martyr, Stephen, there are many others who refuse to denounce their faith.
"Nowadays, how many Stepehens are there in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya. Let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was a Christian. Let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians. Let's think of just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians… and of many others. Many others of whom we don't even know of who are suffering in jails because they are Christians… The Church today is a Church of martyrs. They suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness.”
He called on Christians to stand united with Christians who are being persecuted for their faith.
SUMMARY OF POPE'S HOMILY
(Source: Vatican Radio)
"God’s Word is always rejected by some. God’s Word is inconvenient when you have a stone heart, when you have a pagan heart, because God’s Word asks you to go ahead trying to satisfy your hunger with the bread which Jesus spoke of. In the history of the Revelation many martyrs have been killed for their faith and loyalty towards God’s Word, God’s Truth”.
Pope Francis continued comparing the martyrdom of Stephen to that of Jesus: he too "died with that Christian magnanimity of forgiveness, praying for his enemies’.
And those who persecuted the prophets - the Pope pointed out – believed they were giving glory to God; they thought they were being true to God’s doctrine.
"Today – the Pope said – I would like to remember that the true history of the Church is that of the Saints and the martyrs,” of so many who were persecuted and killed by those who thought they possessed the ‘truth’- whose heart was corrupted by ‘truth'
The Pope also pointed out that there are also many "hidden martyrs: those men and women who are faithful to the voice of the Spirit and who are searching for new ways and paths to help their brothers better love God”.
He said they are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by so many modern ‘Sanhedrins’ who think they are the possessors of truth.”