At the Angelus, Pope Francis asks for prayers for "brothers and sisters" who "continue to testify to their faith with courage and fidelity." "The Lord ... sends us as sentinels among people who do not want to be awakened from worldly torpor." "Success does not count, but loyalty to Christ." God "does not abandon his sons at the time of the storm". The beatification in Vilnius of the Martyr of Atheism, Msgr. Teofilo Matulionis, "killed in hatred of faith in 1962, when he was almost 90 years old." Greeting to the Greco-Catholic Ukrainians and the Belarusians on the 150th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Josaphat.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Even today persecution against Christians is present", emphasized Pope Francis before the Angelus prayer today with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. The pontiff did not cite precise situations of persecution, such as those that have emerged in these days, of the kidnapping of Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, Bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), but added, "Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and praise God because, despite this, they continue to testify to their faith with their courage and fidelity." After the Marian prayer, the Pope sent a message of condolences to China for the landslide that took place in Xinmo (Sichuan) village yesterday, which destroyed dozens of houses and killed hundreds of people.
Pope Francis's reflection on the persecution was inspired by the Fospel of today's Mass (Mt 10,26-33, 12th Sunday to A Year), in which "thrice Jesus reassures his disciples by saying," Do not be afraid!".
"Jesus - he said - does not guarantee the disciples success, or shelter them from failures and sufferings. They have to consider both the possibility of rejection and persecution. This scares them somewhat but it's the truth. The disciple is called to conform his life to Christ, who has been persecuted by men, has known rejection, abandonment, and death on the cross. There is no Christian mission in the name of tranquility. Difficulties and tribulations are part of the work of evangelization, and we are called to find in them the opportunity to verify the authenticity of our faith and our relationship with Jesus. We must consider these difficulties as the possibility of being even more Missionaries and to grow in that trust in God Our Father, who does not abandon his children at the time of the storm. In the difficulties of the Christian witness in the world, we have never been forgotten, but always assisted by the thoughtful solicitude of the Father. "
"Even today, he continued, persecution against Christians is present. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and praise God because, despite this, they continue to testify to their faith with their courage and fidelity. Their example helps us not to hesitate to take position in favor of Christ, witnessing to it courageously in everyday situations, even in seemingly peaceful contexts. In fact, a form of proof may also be the absence of hostility and tribulation. As well as "sheep in the midst of wolves," the Lord, even in our time, sends us as sentinels among people who do not want to be awakened from their worldly torpor, who ignore the words of the Truth of the Gospel, building their ephemeral truths . But in all this, the Lord continues to tell us, as with the disciples of his time said, 'Do not be afraid!' Do not forget these words, when we have some worry or suffering, always remember these words of Jesus. Do not be afraid of those who mock you and maltreate you, and do not be afraid of those who ignore or appears to honor you but "behind" fights the Gospel. Jesus does not abandon us because we are precious to Him. "
"May the Virgin Mary - he concluded - a model of humble and courageous adherence to the Word of God, help us understand that faith in the testimony does not count on success but faithfulness to Christ, recognizing in all circumstances, even the most problematic the precious gift of being his missionary disciples. "
After the Angelus, Francis recalled the disaster that had happened in Sichuan yesterday: "I express my closeness - he said - to the population of the Chinese village of Xinmo struck yesterday morning by a landslide caused by heavy rains. I pray for the dead and the wounded and for those who have lost their homes. May God comfort the families and support the rescuers. I am close to you all."
He also recalled that Blessed Msgr. Theophilus Matulionis beatified in Vilnius (Lithuania) today, "killed in hatred of faith in 1962, when he was almost 90 years old." In the Soviet period, Matulionis was deported to Siberia, lived 16 years in jail and 4 under house arrest until he was poisoned. Lithuanians consider him a martyr of communist atheism. "We give thanks to God," said the Pope, "for the testimony of this obstinate defender of man's faith and dignity. And we greet him and all the Lithuanian people with an applause. "
Among the greetings, Francis had a special greeting for the Archbishopric [Svjatoslav Ševčuk], to the bishops, priests and faithful of the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church, "as well as the pilgrims of Belarus who remember the 150th anniversary of the Canonization of St.Josaphat. " "I join spiritually," he added, "in the Divine Liturgy that you will celebrate in the basilica of St. Peter, invoking from the Lord for each one the courage of Christian witness and the gift of peace for the dear Ukrainian land."