At the general audience, Francis recalled the "luminous witness" of the Missionaries of Charity who died in Yemen while serving the last in the context of a war. "There are many martyrs today and they are not heroes, but the ripe fruits of the vineyard of the Lord". In a message to the French Church in view of the 2024 Olympics, the invitation to the world of sport not to forget those on the margins.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "One must never kill in the name of God, because for Him we are all brothers and sisters. But together we can give our lives for others". This was said today by Pope Francis addressing the faithful during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Dwelling in his catechesis on the martyrs as faces of apostolic zeal, he emphasised their relevance, recalling once again that the "are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries". And he cited - in particular - the shining example of the Missionaries of Charity killed in Yemen as they went about serving the poor and the sick in the context of a terrible war who were killed together with some Muslims who were working with them in 2016 by Islamic militiamen.
Stressing the inseparable link with the mission, Francis explained that "the word martyrdom comes from the Greek martyria, which means precisely witness. However, very early in the Church," he added, "the word martyr was used to indicate those who bore witness even to the shedding of blood".
"Martyrs," he added, "should not be seen as 'heroes' who acted individually, like flowers sprouting in a desert, but as mature and excellent fruits of the Lord's vineyard, which is the Church". Central to this was the assiduous participation in the Eucharist, which led the first Christians to set their lives on that mystery of love: "If the Lord Jesus had given his life for them, they too could and should give their lives for him and for their brothers.
But martyrdom is not just a story of the past: "there are so many martyrs today: those who for professing their faith are thrown out of society or go to prison". In imitation of Jesus, 'they turn the violence of those who refuse the proclamation into a supreme opportunity for love, which goes as far as the forgiveness of their tormentors'. Even those who are not in situations that can lead to the shedding of blood 'are called to the witness of life, making of themselves a gift to God and to their brothers and sisters'.
A particularly shining example in our time was that of the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Yemen: "Still today they are still present in this land wounded by a terrible war, offering assistance to the elderly, the sick and people with disabilities". Some suffered martyrdom in 1998 and again in 2016, "but others continue: they risk their lives and go on. They welcome everyone, of any religion, because charity and fraternity have no boundaries'.
"In 2016," the pope recalled, "Sister Anselm, Sister Marguerite, Sister Reginette and Sister Judith were killed together with some lay people who were helping them in the work of charity among the last. Among these murdered lay people, in addition to Christians, were Muslim believers who worked with the sisters. It moves us to see how the testimony of blood can unite people of different religions".
"Let us therefore pray," the Pontiff concluded his reflection, "that we do not tire of bearing witness to the Gospel even in times of tribulation. May all the saints and holy martyrs be seeds of peace and reconciliation between peoples for a more human and fraternal world, while waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to be fully manifested, when God will be all in all". And on this path - at the end of the greetings to the groups present - today too, he invited them to persevere "in closeness and in prayer for the dear and tormented Ukraine, which continues to endure terrible suffering".
To the "profound and fruitful encounter between people of all horizons, belonging to different peoples, cultures and religions" Francis also invited to look also in view of the 2024 Paris Olympics. The occasion is a message sent on his behalf to French Catholics by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in these days when the transalpine Church presented its initiatives in view of next year's great sporting event. In particular, the pope recommends that we do not forget to "help integrate the disabled, poor or marginalised", hoping that the Olympic Games "will be an occasion, through sport, of an authentic impetus of fraternity that the world so badly needs".