Pope: With Stephen, remember all the martyrs of yesterday and today

At the Angelus on the feast day of the protomartyr, Pope Francis urged Christian communities to become more missionary, striving towards evangelisation. The “first testimony is precisely our own way of being human, a lifestyle shaped according to Jesus: mild and courageous, humble and noble, non-violent.” A Hail Mary was said for the Philippines hit by typhoon Phanfone.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “The feast of protomartyr Stephen is a call to remember all the martyrs of yesterday and today, to feel in communion with them, and to ask them for the grace to live and die with the name of Jesus in the heart and on the lips,” said Pope Francis on the day when the Church, the day after Christ's birth, remembers the first martyr in her history.

“In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas,” said Francis, “the memory of the first Christian killed for the faith could appear out of place. However, precisely from the perspective of faith, today's celebration is in harmony with the true meaning of Christmas. In Stephen’s martyrdom, violence is in fact defeated by love, death by life: in the hour of supreme witness, he contemplated the open skies and forgave his persecutors” (see Acts 7:60).

“This young servant of the Gospel, full of the Holy Spirit, was able to describe Jesus with words, above all with his life. Looking at him, we see Jesus’s promise to his disciples being fulfilled: ‘When they mistreat you for my sake, the Spirit of the Father will give you the strength and the words to bear witness’ (cf Mt 10:19-20). At the school of Saint Stephen, who became like his Master both in life and death, we too fix our gaze on Jesus, faithful witness of the Father. We learn that the glory of Heaven, that which lasts for eternal life, is not made up of wealth and power, but of love and self-giving.”

"We need to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, ‘leader and perfecter of faith’ (Heb 12:2), in order to account for the hope that was given to us (cf 1 Pt 3:15), through challenges and trials that we must face daily ... So that the first testimony is precisely our own way of being human, a lifestyle shaped according to Jesus: mild and courageous, humble and noble, non-violent.”

 “Stephen was a deacon, one of the first seven deacons of the Church (cf Acts 6: -6). He taught us to proclaim Christ through deeds of brotherhood and evangelical charity. His testimony, which culminated in martyrdom, is a source of inspiration for the renewal of our Christian communities.”

The latter “are called to become more missionary, all striving towards evangelisation, determined to reach men and women in the [world’s] existential and geographical peripheries, where there is more thirst for hope and salvation. Communities that do not follow a worldly logic, that do not focus on themselves, on their image, but only on the glory of God and the good of the people, especially the little ones and the poor.”

After the Angelus prayer, Francis called on pilgrims in the square to say together a Hail Mary for “the dear people of the Philippines” hit by typhoon Phanfone, which killed and injured scores in central regions of the country.