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    » 12/26/2009, 00.00

    VATICAN

    On St Stephen’s, we remember believers who are tested or suffer because of their faith, Pope says



    Benedict XVI highlights the trials and suffering believers endure in many parts of the world. In Asia, Christians suffer persecution or limits to their mission in at least 32 countries (out of 52). Stephen marks the start of the civilisation of love, which forgives persecutors, but does “not surrender to evil.” St Stephen’s commitment to the poor is also a privileged way to bear witness to the Gospel.
    Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, is celebrated the day after Christmas. “It reminds us . . . that many believers in various parts of the world are suffering because of their faith,” Pope Benedict XVI said during today’s Angelus in St Peter’s Square, all decorated for the Christmas celebrations, with a big crèche and a huge Christmas tree.

    The Pope did not mention any country in particular, but yesterday during the Urbi et Orbi blessing he referred to the difficulties Christians face in the Holy Land, Iraq, Sri Lanka, the Korean peninsula, Congo and Latin America.

    In Asia, out of 52 countries, at least 32 limit Christians’ mission in some ways. Muslim countries (from the Middle East to Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia) make it hard for people to convert to Christianity; India and Sri Lanka are increasingly pushing for anti-conversion laws; Central Asian nations (except for Kazakhstan) limit religious freedom; the Communist countries (China, Laos Vietnam and North Korea) stifle or even persecute the Church.

    As the Pontiff continued his address, he called on every Christian to entrust their persecuted brothers to the protection of St Stephen. “Let us commit ourselves to support them with our prayers and not fail in our Christian vocation, always placing Jesus Christ at the centre of our life, which these days we contemplate in the simplicity and humility of the crèche.”

    However, the celebration of St Stephen’s martyrdom does not remind us only of violence, for he, “like his Master, dies forgiving his persecutors. This makes us understand that the entry of the Son of God into the world gives rise to a new civilisation, a civilisation of love that does not surrender to evil and violence, but breaks down barriers between men, making them brothers in the great family of the sons of God.”

    In addition, Stephen was one of the first deacons, who, in handing out help to the poor of Jerusalem, became a “servant of the poor”, the Pope said.

    In concluding, the Pope noted, “Stephen’s testimony, like that of [other] Christian martyrs, shows to our contemporaries, who are often distracted and disoriented, on whom we should place our trust in order to give meaning to life. The martyr in fact is the one who dies with the certainty that he is loved by God, and who, putting nothing before the love of Christ, knows that he chose the better side. Basing himself fully on the death of Christ, he is aware that he is the fruitful seed of life that can open paths for peace and hope in the world. Today, by presenting us the deacon St Stephen as a model to follow, the Church is also showing us, in welcoming and loving the poor, one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and credibly bear witness of the coming Kingdom of God to all men.”

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    See also

    26/12/2006 VATICAN
    Entrusting to Mary all the martyrs and the persecuted for the Gospel, Pope says
    On the Feast Day of Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the faith, Benedict XVI remembers Catholics in China, who are faithful to the See of Peter even in their suffering. Today as in the past martyrdom elicits “spiritual enthusiasm” and “new Christians”.

    26/12/2005 VATICAN
    Pope: St Stephen, the Christian faith and martyrs' heroism


    19/12/2004 VATICAN
    May the Christmas tree teach us to give ourselves, says the Pope

    Pontiff lovingly greets 32 children who survived the Beslan school massacre.



    26/12/2015 VATICAN
    Pope: St. Stephen, receiving and giving forgiveness
    The martyr, the witness, "is like Jesus", he prays, loves, gives, forgives. The forgiveness of Stephen and the conversion of St. Paul. "Through forgiveness we overcome evil with good, we turn hatred into love and so we make the world cleaner". May our contemplating the Nativity Scene " inspire an attitude of mercy and love for one another in families, parish and religious communities, movements and associations, in all the faithful and people of good will."

    26/12/2014 VATICAN
    Pope: like Saint Stephen, in the trials accepted because of one's faith, violence is defeated by love
    During the Angelus, Pope Francis notes that the festivity of the first martyr continues "the celebration of Christmas", stripping it of "that false sugar-coating that does not belong to it." He mentions "those who are discriminated against, persecuted and killed for bearing witness to Christ." Religious freedom is "an inalienable right of every human person."



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