Pope Francis during his homily at the Saint Peter’s Square just a day after Christmas said that believers must remember those who died for their Christian faith. “But why does the world persecute Christians?” he asked as he addressed the audience. “The world hates Christians for the same reason it hated Jesus: because He brought the light of God and the world prefers the darkness to hide its wicked works,” he said.
“We remember that Jesus, himself, at the Last Supper, prayed to the Father to defend Him from the spirit of worldly wickedness. There is conflict between the mentality of the Gospel and that of the world. To follow Jesus means to follow His light, which was lit on that Bethlehem night, and to abandon the darkness of the world,” he said.
Pope Francis emphasized that in modern times there were more martyrs in the Church than in the earliest centuries. “Today, too, the Church, to bear witness to light and truth, experiences harsh persecution in different places, [to the point of] the supreme test of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated for Jesus’ sake! I’ll tell you something. The martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries,” he said.
“When we read the history of the early centuries, here in Rome, we read about so much cruelty toward Christians. I tell you, there is this same cruelty today, and in greater numbers with Christians. Today we want to think about them and to be close to them with our affection, our prayer and our tears,” he continued.
An international Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors in its recent report on Christian persecution revealed that 2015 was the deadliest year for the Church worldwide. The report noted that more than 7,000 Christians were killed for faith during the time between November 1, 2014, till October 31, 2015.
Open Doors CEO David Curry stated: “The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history.”
In the list of most hostile countries for Christians, Open Doors has listed North Korea as number one. Iraq as second most dangerous country for Christians, where terror group Islamic State has already uncoiled furry against Christians resulting in massacre of Christians and mass exodus of Christians from Iraq.
In his remarks, Pope Francis further paid tribute to the Christians in Iraq. “Yesterday, Christmas Day, the persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed Cathedral. [Theirs] is an example of fidelity to the Gospel. Despite the trials and the dangers, they bear witness with courage to their belonging to Christ and they live the Gospel committing themselves on behalf of the least, the most overlooked, doing good to all without distinction; they bear witness in this way to charity in truth,” said the pope.