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Pope Francis explains why he carries the crucifix of a martyred Iraqi priest

The persecution of Christians. This is what Pope Francis addressed as he met with 5,000 consecrated men and women from the Middle East who visited the Vatican.  POPE FRANCIS "I know that there are consecrated men and women from Iraq and Syria here. I want to begin by taking a moment for the martyrs of Iraq and Syria, who are our modern day martyrs. Maybe you personally knew some or many of them.â?  The Pope highlighted that more Christians are persecuted now, that in the early years of Christianity. He then shared a personal anecdote involving a priest from Iraq.  POPE FRANCIS  "A few days ago, in St. Peter's Square, an Iraqi priest came up to me and gave me small crucifix. It was the same crucifix that a martyred priest held, when his throat was slit  for not denying Christ. I carry that crucifix right here.â?  After addressing the crowds, Pope Francis then took a few questions from the consecrated men and women.  He called on them to avoid gossip for it only leads to division. He also reminded them that their lives should not be based on a set of rules that drown their creativity.  JRB/KLH  CTV VM -BN Up:AC