Pope: The persecution of Christians comes from the devil's hatred

Francis went to the basilica of St Bartholomew on the Tiber, which, after the Jubilee of 2000, was dedicated to the memory of the new martyrs of the 20th and 21st century. “The memory of these heroic, old and recent witnesses confirms us in the awareness that the Church is a Church of martyrs,” the pope said. “Refugee camps are concentration camps. They [refugees] are left there, because international agreements seem more important than human rights."


Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis said this afternoon that the persecution of Christians is caused today by the hatred of the devil, the prince of this world, against those who have been saved by Jesus.

The pontiff led the Liturgy of the Word at the Church of St Bartholomew on the Tiber, a shrine to the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries, dedicated by Saint John Paul II after the Jubilee of 2000.

During the service, some relatives and friends of Christians killed in hatred of the faith read out their testimonies: Karl Schneider, the son of Rev Paul Schneider of the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union, who was killed in Buchenwald concentration camp; Francisco Hernandez Guevara, a friend of William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009; and Roselyne, the sister of Fr Jacques Hamel, killed by radical Islamists in France last year..

“The memory of these heroic, old and recent witnesses confirms us in the awareness that the Church is a Church of martyrs. And martyrs are those who, as the Book of Revelation reminds us, "Are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They had the grace to confess Jesus until the end, until death. They suffered, they gave their lives, and we receive the blessing of God for their witness. And there are also many hidden martyrs, those men and women who are faithful to the gentle strength of love, to the voice of the Holy Spirit, those who in their daily lives seek to help their brothers and sisters and to love God without reserve.”

“If we look hard, we can see that the cause of every persecution is the hatred of the prince of this world toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus through His death and resurrection. In the Gospel we just heard (cf. Jn 15: 12-19), Jesus uses a strong and frightening word: the word "hatred". He, who is the master of love, who so enjoyed talking about love, speaks of hatred. But he always liked to call things by their name. And he tells us, "Do not be afraid! The world will hate you; but know that before it hated you, it hated me."

“Jesus chose us and redeemed us as a free gift of His love. With His death and resurrection He redeemed us from the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world. And the origin of hatred is this: since we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of the world does not want that, he hates us and encourages persecution, which from the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church continues to this day. How many Christian communities are being persecuted today! Why? Because of the hatred of the spirit of this world.”

“Today what does our Church need?" Martyrs, witnesses, that is, everyday saints of ordinary life, lives lived coherently; but we also need those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses until the end, until death. All these are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry forward the Church; those who witness to the fact that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is alive, who witness to Him with coherent lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received as a gift.”

As a witness, the pope cited the case of a man he met on the island of Lesvos. "A thirty-year-old man looked at me: 'Father I am a Muslim; my wife was Christian. Terrorists came to our town, and asked us our religion.  They saw the crucifix, and told us to throw it away. She refused, and they cut her throat in front of me. We loved each other very much.’ Refugee camps are concentration camps. They [refugees] are left there, because international agreements seem more important than human rights."

“Remembering these witnesses of the faith and praying in this place is a great gift. It is a gift for the Community of Sant'Egidio, for the Church in Rome, for all the Christian communities of this city, and for so many pilgrims. The living legacy of martyrs today gives us peace and unity. They teach us that with the strength of love, with gentleness, one can fight against arrogance, violence, and war - and that peace can be achieved with patience.

“And so we can pray: O Lord, make us worthy witnesses of the Gospel and of your love; pour out your mercy upon humanity; renew your Church, protect persecuted Christians, grant peace to the whole world, soon.

After the testimonies and the homily, the pope lit a candle on each altar bearing the relics and the memories of the witnesses of the faith. Afterwards, the name of Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox martyrs of our age were mentioned, including the Copts killed last Palm Sunday. One candle was lit for each memory.

After the service, Francis met a group of refugees inside the Basilica.

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