At the general audience, Francis speaks of persecution "with white gloves, that is, left aside, marginalized ...". "There will always be martyrs among us: this is the signal that we are on the path of Jesus. It is a blessing from the Lord, whether there is in the people of God, some who are witnesses of martyrdom".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Today, even in Europe, many Christians are persecuted. This is the sad denunciation that Pope Francis made today speaking off the cuff at the general audience, suggested to him by the events of Paul, accused and put in chains although innocent.
"Today - he said - in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or they are persecuted with white gloves, that is left aside, marginalized ... Martyrdom is the air of a life Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the signal that we are on the path of Jesus. It is a blessing from the Lord, whether there is in the people of God, some who are witnesses of martyrdom".
Francis had also spoken of martyrdom with the Ukrainians of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, who came to Rome for the 30th anniversary of their emergence from hiding. He met the pilgrims in St. Peter’s before the general audience.
He described their church as a "mother of many martyrs, who with their own blood confirmed their fidelity to Christ, to the Catholic Church and to the Bishop of Rome". "I also want to remember - the Pope said - your ancestors, grandparents and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, who in the intimacy of their homes, and often under the surveillance of the hostile regime, risking their freedom and life, have transmitted the teaching of the truth of Christ and offered future generations, of whom you are representatives, an eloquent testimony of a firm, living and Catholic faith ".
Francis spoke to the eight thousand people present in the Paul VI hall about St. Paul, continuing the cycle of catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. In the Acts, he said, "the testimony of St. Paul is increasingly marked by the seal of suffering. This is something that grows over time in Paul's life. Paul is not only an evangelizer full of ardor, the intrepid missionary among the pagans who gives life to new Christian communities, but he is also the suffering witness of the Risen One (see Acts 9,15-16) ".
Francis then retraced the arrival of the Apostle in Jerusalem which "unleashes a fierce hatred against him". "As it was for Jesus, for him too Jerusalem is a hostile city. Having gone to the temple, he was recognized, led out to be lynched and saved in extremis by Roman soldiers. Accused of teaching against the Law and the temple, he is arrested and begins his trials, first in front of the Sanhedrin, then before the Roman procurator at Caesarea, and finally before King Agrippa. Luke highlights the similarity between Paul and Jesus, both hated by the adversaries, publicly accused and recognized as innocent by the imperial authorities; and so Paul is associated with the passion of his Master, and his passion becomes a living gospel".
"Paul is called to defend himself against accusations, and in the end, in the presence of King Agrippa II, his apology turns into an effective witness of faith (see Acts 26,1-23). Even when he speaks of himself, Paul announces and manifests his Lord. The true missionary, in fact, is not centered on himself, but is all addressed to the Lord, who is the center of everything, especially of his heart ”.
"Paul's passionate testimony touches the heart of King Agrippa, who lacks only the decisive step:" Still a little and convince me to become a Christian! "(V. 28). Paul is declared innocent, but he cannot be released because he must appeal to Caesar. Thus continues the unstoppable journey of the Word of God towards Rome. From this moment on, the portrait of Paul is that of the prisoner whose chains are the sign of his fidelity to the Gospel and of the testimony given to the Risen One. The chains are certainly a humiliating test for the Apostle, who appears to the eyes of the world like a "criminal" (2 Tim 2: 9). But his love for Christ is so strong that even these chains are read with the eyes of faith; faith that for Paul is not "a theory, an opinion on God and on the world", but "the impact of God's love on his heart, [...] his love for Jesus Christ" (BENEDICT XVI, Homily on the occasion of of the Pauline Year, June 28, 2008) ".
"Dear brothers and sisters, Paul teaches us perseverance in trial and the ability to read everything with the eyes of faith. Today we ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Apostle, to rekindle our faith and help us to be faithful to the end of our vocation as missionary disciples ".
Even in his greeting to the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Francis appealed to them "not to be afraid, to keep your faith in front of all the trials and to be bold for Christ, certain that neither tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution could separate us from His love".