VATICAN: Christians are facing more persecution than in the early centuries of Christianity, Pope Francis claims.
Pope Francis sombrely revealed in his address that as hostility goes sky-high around the world, “there are more persecuted Christians in the world today than there were in the first centuries of Christianity.” Pope Francis made these comments while addressing a large audience at the celebration of Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, a day the Catholic Church sets aside in remembrance of the first Roman martyrs who were tortured and killed during Nero’s persecution in 64.
During his address, Pope Francis told his audience, “Today, we look upon the Church of Rome that grows, fed by the blood of martyrs. So it is right that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today there are just as many. Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” he advises Christians to pray for those facing persecution around the world. He continues to say, “There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians. Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves’: that too is persecution. There are more witnesses; more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries. So during this Mass, remembering our glorious ancestors, let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us.”
According to the 2014 World Watch List released previously by Open Doors USA, (a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide) confirms Pope Francis’ claims. This report, ranks anti-Christian persecution in a list of the 50 most terrible countries for 2013, reveals increasing violence against Christians in Africa in particular- radical Muslims were the main source of persecution in 36 countries on its list – both in Islamic countries and in non-Muslim countries such as Kenya (ranked 40th), Ethiopia (17th) and Tanzania (49th). For the 12th consecutive year, communist North Korea topped the list of where Christians suffer, followed closely by the Islamic countries of Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. Earlier this month, Open Doors revealed that it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings over the year, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, the report said.
Sorrowfully, Pope Francis’ claims are not without evidence. Regardless of persecution, Pope Francis has insisted that Christians across the globe should stand firm and “without condition” for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In conclusion he said,”In the Gospel reading of the day one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions’. Your witness must be firm; you must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes, or no, no’. This is the language of testimony.”