Pope Francis Urges Christians To Stand In Solidarity With Those Being Persecuted For Their Faith
Pope Francis urged Christians around the world on Monday to stand in solidarity with those suffering for their faith in Christ.
His remarks came on the day that Catholics observe the Feast of St. Stephen, who was martyred for his faith in Christ.
Stephen's execution is recorded in Acts 7:55-60 in the Bible.
“Today too the Church, to bear witness to the light and the truth, is experiencing severe persecution in different places, up to the supreme test of martyrdom,” Pope Francis said. “How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated because of Jesus. Today we want to think about them and be close to them with our affection, our prayer, and also our tears.”
“I'll tell you something: the martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries,” he went on to say. “When we read the history of the early centuries, here in Rome, we read about so much cruelty towards Christians. I tell you, there is this same cruelty today, and in greater numbers with Christians.”
Open Doors USA, a charity which monitors Christian persecution, lists staggering statistics which confirm the rise in persecution worldwide. Each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christians properties are destroyed, and 772 acts of violence are committed against believers, according to the charity.
In addition, the Pew Research Center estimates that “over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions,” according to Open Doors.
Pope Francis also specifically mentioned how persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated this Christmas in a cathedral that had been nearly destroyed.
Father Jonathan Morris, who currently serves as both Pastor of Mount Carmel Church in the Bronx and a Fox News Contributer, also made mention on Twitter of a similar church in Aleppo, Syria and another in Iraq.
Pope Francis also urged Christians to continue on with their faith, even in the face of adversity.
“In making space within our heart to the Son of God who gives himself to us at Christmas, let us renew the joyous and courageous willingness to follow him faithfully as our only guide, persevering in living according to the mind of the Gospel and refusing the mentality of the rulers of this world,” he said.