His words come
as Afghanistan’s Abdul Rahman faces a possible death sentence for
converting from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago. Rahman’s case has
been turned back to the Attorney General because of gaps in the
evidence, but due to that country’s Islamic laws, his fate remains
The Holy Father
began by likening his words with last week’s consistory, in which 15
men were elevated to the position of cardinal.
Friday’s event “an intense ecclesial experience that enabled us to
taste the spiritual wealth of collegiality, finding ourselves together
among brothers from different backgrounds, all united in a single love
for Christ and His Church."
"In some way,”
he went on, “we relived the situation of the first Christian community,
united around Peter and Mary Mother of Jesus to welcome the gift of the
Spirit and undertake to spread the Gospel throughout world.”
He gave a
sobering explanation of the role of cardinal saying that, “Faithfulness
to this mission even unto the sacrifice of their lives is a distinctive
characteristic of cardinals, as their oath testifies and as symbolized
by the red they wear, the color of blood."
Calling it a
"providential coincidence" that the consistory’s March 24th date
coincided with "the commemoration of missionaries who, over the past
year, have died on the frontiers of evangelization and service to man
in various parts of the earth,” the Pope said that the day “provided an
opportunity for us to feel closer than ever to those Christians who
suffer persecution because of their faith.”
of which news reaches us every day,” he said, “and especially the
sacrifice of those killed, edifies and encourages us to an ever more
sincere and generous evangelical commitment.”
particularly pointed to “those communities living in countries where
religious freedom is lacking or where, despite its affirmation in
theory, in practice it suffers many restrictions.”
communities, he sent his “warm encouragement to carry on in the
patience and charity of Christ, seed of the Kingdom of God to come."
The Holy Father
concluded his address by expressing "solidarity in the name of the
entire Church" and "daily recollection in my prayers" to those who work
in the service of the Gospel under such difficult conditions.
marches forwards in history”, he said, “and spreads over the earth
accompanied by Mary, Queen of the Apostles…We ask her to guide us on
our daily journey and to protect with special concern those Christian
communities undergoing the greatest difficulty and suffering."
praying his weekly Angelus prayer before a crowd of thousands in St.
Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict expressed his solidarity with
persecuted Christians around the world, sending his “warm encouragement
to carry on in the patience and charity of Christ,” awaiting the full
realization of the “Kingdom of God to come.”