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    » 12/26/2013, 00.00


    Pope: The Feast of St Stephen the first martyr dissolves the "fairy tale" image of Christmas

    In today's Angelus, Pope Francis calls for a moment of silence and prayer for persecuted Christians. "There are more today than in the early days of the Church." It is necessary to witness and report violations of religious freedom and discrimination. For the pontiff, it is also necessary to contemplate the crèche as an "atmosphere of understanding and brotherhood" that is "so beneficial to the common good" may grow "in families and communities".

    Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Feast Day of Saint Stephen is "in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas" and dissolves "the false picture of Christmas as a mushy fairy tale that does not exist in the Gospel," Pope Francis said in today's Angelus before the many pilgrims in St Peter's Square, on the day when the Church remembers its first martyr.

    "In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas," the pope noted, "this commemoration might seem out of place. Christmas in fact is the celebration of life and gives us feelings of serenity and peace. Why upset its charm with the memory of such brutal violence? In reality, from the perspective of faith, the Feast of St Stephen is in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas. In martyrdom in fact, violence is overcome by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their "birth in heaven." Let us therefore celebrate today Stephen's "birth", which deeply stems from the birth of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love him into the dawn of new life! The same clash between good and evil, between hatred and forgiveness, between gentleness and violence, which culminated in the Cross of Christ, is played out in Stephen's martyrdom. Thus, the memory of the first martyr comes immediately to dissolve the false image of Christmas as a mushy fairy tale that does not exist in the Gospel! The liturgy brings us back to the true meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary, and reminding us that divine salvation involves a struggle against sin through the narrow gate of the Cross."

    For the pope, Saint Stephen's martyrdom is the reason why "we are praying today especially for Christians who suffer discrimination because of their witness to Christ and the Gospel."

    "We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like Saint Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds. This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realised. In my opinion, there are more today than in the early days of the Church. As it happens however, even in countries and places that protect freedom and human rights on the paper, believers, especially Christians, encounter limitations or discrimination."

    "For these brothers and sisters, I would ask you to pray, for a moment, in silence, everyone," the pope said off the cuff. After a brief moment of silence, he continued, saying, "Let us entrust them to Mary," and called on everyone to say a Hail Mary for them.

    "For Christians," he added, "this is not surprising because Jesus foretold it as an opportunity to bear witness. Nevertheless, injustice must be legally reported and eliminated."

    "May Mary Queen of Martyrs help us experience Christmas with the ardour of faith and love that shines in Saint Stephen and all the martyrs of the Church," the pope said in concluding.

    After the Marian prayer, Francis greeted those present. Earlier he had praised them because they had not "been afraid of the rain," which was falling on the city.

    "May the visit at this time to the crèche to see Mary and Joseph and the Child arouse in everyone a generous commitment to love one another so that within families and communities people may experience an atmosphere of understanding and brotherhood that is so beneficial to the common good," said the pope as he spoke about the pilgrims who come to Rome from all over the world to visit the Neapolitan crèche in St Peter's Square.

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    See also

    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."

    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”.

    26/12/2015 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."

    15/04/2013 VATICAN
    For pope, persecution is not over, there are more martyrs today than in the past
    Francis talks about the story of Stephen, the first martyr, a victim of calumny, which is not only a sin, but "comes from a very evil thing; it is born from hatred. And hate is Satan's work. [. . .] The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith."

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

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