Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis has wept for Christians crucified in Syria. He said so himself this morning - remembering what happened in a "non-Christian country" - during the mass celebrated at Casa Santa Marta, commenting on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ's disciples are flogged by the Sanhedrin. He noted that in today's world there are still "masters of conscience" [thought police - ed] and in some countries you can still go to jail for possessing a Gospel or wearing a crucifix.
Vatican Radio reports that the flogging by the Sanhedrin proposed three icons to Pope Francis: the first is Jesus' love for people, his attention to peoples' problems. He said the Lord is not concerned with how many people follow him, he would "never even thinks of taking a census" to see if "the Church has grown ... no! He speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble". He speaks with authority, that is, with "the power of love".
The second icon is the "jealousy" of the religious authorities of the time: "They couldn't stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn't stand it! They were jealous. This is a really bad attitude to have. Jealousy and envy, and we know that the father of envy" is "the devil". It was through his envy that evil came into the world". Pope Francis continued: "These people knew who Jesus was: they knew! These people were the same who had paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ's body!".
"They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes! Because when we pay to hide the truth, we are [committing] a very great evil. And that's why people knew who they were. They would not follow them, but they had to tolerate them because they had authority: the authority of the cult, the authority of the ecclesiastical discipline at that time, the authority of the people ... and the people followed. Jesus said that they weighed people down with oppressive weights and made them carry them on their shoulders. These people cannot tolerate the meekness of Jesus, they cannot tolerate the meekness of the Gospel, they cannot tolerate love. And they pay out of envy, out of hate".
During the gathering of the Sanhedrin there is a "wise man", Gamaliel, who asks the religious leaders to free the apostles. Thus, the Pope insists, there are these first two icons: Jesus who is moved to see people "without a shepherd" and the religious authorities ...
"These, with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... And so, they bring forth the apostles, after this wise man had spoken, the called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them. 'We have to do something, we will give them a sound hiding and send them on their way! . Unjust! but they did it. They were the masters of conscience [thought police], and felt they had the power to do so. Masters of conscience ... Even in today's world , there are so many".
Then Pope Francis confessed: "I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian. Still today - he pointed out - there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God. Still today, "we see many who" like the apostles "rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in Christ's name". This - he said - "is the third icon today. The Joy of witness".
"First icon: Jesus with people, his love, the path that He has taught us, which we should follow. The second icon: the hypocrisy of these religious leaders of the people, who had people imprisoned with these many commandments, with this cold, hard legality, and who also paid to hide the truth. Third icon: the joy of the Christian martyrs, the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ's name. And today there are still so many! Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined. But the heart rejoices. The three icons: let us look at them today. This is part of our history of salvation".