Pope Francis: Martyrs are a sign the Church is following Jesus

Pope greets pilgrims Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his weekly audience, Dec. 11, 2019. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis said Wednesday that persecution has always been a part of the Church's life, and that the witness of martyrdom is a blessing for all Christians.

"Martyrdom is the air of the life of a Christian, of a Christian community. There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are going on the way of Jesus," the pope said during his Wednesday audience Dec. 11.

"It is a blessing from the Lord, that there may be in the people of God, someone or someone who gives this witness of martyrdom," the pope added.

The pope mentioned that Christian persecution is on the rise.

"Today in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted 'with white gloves,' that is, set aside, marginalized," Pope Francis said.

A 2019 report from NGO Aid to the Church in Need documented that Christians face persecution from regimes around the world, noting especially such persecution in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, India, Nigeria, China, and North Korea.

"Christian women suffer the most, with reports of abductions, forced conversions and sex attacks," the report said.

Pope Francis mentioned that he had been meeting with Ukrainian pilgrims before his weekly public audience, from a Ukrainian diocese with a long history of Chritian persecutions.

"How persecuted these people were; how much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they did not negotiate their faith. They are example," the pope said.

Discussing the apostle Paul, Pope Francis said that in addition to being an evangelist, Paul was "also the suffering witness of the Risen One."

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