Pope Francis in his homily during a Mass at the chapel of the Saint Martha said that persecution in not new to Christianity.
The Pontiff in his homily recalled Pakistani Christians who were killed as a result of the suicide bombing at a park on Easter March 27. He talked about tens and thousands of Christians all around the world who have to suffer for their faith.
In his homily he commented on the Scripture passage readings that recounted the account of death of the first martyr in the history of the church, Saint Stephen, who was stoned to death in the first century AD. And “from that time to the present day there are martyrs in the Church, there always have been and there still are.” They are the “men and women persecuted for confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord,” he said.
It is effortless to consider martyrdom as a thing of the past, although in reality, it is still continuing to the present day. He further said that, when tourists come to Rome and visit the Colosseum, they effortlessly recognize that “the martyrs were the ones killed by the lions,” and while they are correct, “those were not the only martyrs.”
If truth be told, the “martyrs” are men and women of every age who lay down their lives for Christian faith and witness to the truth of Christ. He continued that about two weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, few Pakistani Christians were martyred “just for celebrating the risen Christ.”
“Persecution is one of the characteristics, one of the traits in the Church, and it pervades her history.” And persecution is “cruel, like that of Stephen, like that of our brothers in Pakistan.”
The Pontiff went on to say that there are two kinds of persecution: the open sort, such as suffered by the Pakistani Christians slaughtered on Easter, and the other subtle persecution, which is subliminally, robbing people of their religious freedom and the right to follow their consciences. This may come “dressed up as culture, modernity and progress,” and seems to be a “enlightened persecution.”
“And so every day we see that authorities make laws that mandate following a certain path, and those who do not follow these modern, enlightened laws are accused and persecuted in an enlightened way. This,” he continued, “is a “persecution that takes man’s freedom away, even conscientious objection! God made us free, but this persecution takes away your freedom! And if you do not do this, you will be punished: you will lose your job … or you will be set aside.”