Vatican City, Nov 5, 2015 / 12:15 pm
Despite the numerous divisions among Christians today, the followers of Christ are powerfully united in the witness of martyrdom across the globe, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
"In various parts of the world the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals," the Pope told the Global Christian Forum in a Nov. 4 message.
And this shared shedding of blood "is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and ecclesial communities."
The Global Christian Forum is an inclusive ecumenical body that seeks to unite leaders of various Christian churches as well as global Christian organizations and groups. Forum members gathered in Tirana, Albania Nov. 2-4 to discuss the topic, "Discrimination, Persecution, Martyrdom: Following Christ Together."
The forum includes the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, the World Council of Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, represented the Holy See at the Tirana gathering.
Pope Francis' letter on the Global Christian Forum was addressed to Cardinal Koch. The Pope emphasized that the communion of martyrs is "the greatest sign of our journeying together" despite differences in beliefs.
He offered a special greeting to members of the forum who, though not Catholic, "represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ."
With "great sadness" Pope Francis noted the escalation of discrimination and persecution against Christians throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The gathering together of so many different Christian traditions "will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation," the Pope said.
He closed the message by assuring participants of his spiritual closeness. He prayed that the many modern martyrs who belong to different Christian traditions would help them "to understand that all the baptized are members of the same Body of Christ, his Church."
"Let us see this profound truth as a call to persevere on our ecumenical journey towards full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding," Pope Francis said.