“I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio, during morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.
In recent weeks, media groups have circulated images that appear to be individuals bound to wooden crosses, allegedly in Syria. The identity and religious faith of the persons pictured have not been confirmed, nor has it been confirmed whether they were actually killed from crucifixion. Some appear to have been shot in the head and then attached to a cross.
In his homily, Pope Francis first commented on Christ’s love for people. This is seen in the Gospel passage of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, he said, where Jesus “speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble.”
Jesus is aware of the needs of the people, and he serves them, the pontiff said. The authority with which he speaks is “the power of love.”
The Pope contrasted this with the jealousy of the religious authorities in Christ’s time, caught up in “cold, hard legality.”
“They couldn’t stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn’t stand it!” he said. “They were jealous.”
“This is a really bad attitude to have,” he explained, pointing out that the father of envy is the devil, and it was through his envy and jealousy that evil entered the world.
In fact, the pontiff asserted, the religious authorities “knew who Jesus was,” and they were the same people who later “paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ’s body!”
“They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes!” Pope Francis said, suggesting that this evilness is why the people would not follow them.
Such evil does not accept Christ’s meekness and love, he said. Rather, it turns to hate.
Turning to the daily reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope noted that the religious leaders were asked by a “wise man,” Gamaliel, to free the arrested apostles.
Instead, however, “with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... they called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them.”
This injustice is still the case today, he lamented: “there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God.”
However, we can draw encouragement from the “joy of witness,” illustrated by the Christian martyrs, Pope Francis said, noting that “today there are still so many” martyrs in the world.
“Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined.”
“But the heart rejoices,” he underscored, reflecting on “the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name.”
In his daily homily on May 2, Pope Francis said that he wept over recent news of Christians allegedly being crucified, reflecting that there are still many martyrs in today’s world.
Persecuted Christians, Syria, Pope Francis