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