On June 30, 2014 Pope Francis in his homily at the Mass remembering the martyrs of the Neronian Persecution said this:
“In the Gospel reading of the day one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions’. Your witness must be firm; you must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes, or no, no’. This is the language of testimony”.
“Today – Pope Francis said – we look upon the Church of Rome that grows, fed by the blood of martyrs. So it is right – he continued – that our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today – he said – there are just as many”.
“There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians. Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves’: that too is persecution. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries. So during this Mass, remembering our glorious ancestors, let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us”.
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Martyrdom has always been a great factor in spreading, and preserving, the Faith. People, unless granted a special vision, cannot see God in this life, but they can see martyrs, men and women like them, who are willing to have taken away from them the precious gift of life in order to hold fast to God and His Truth. It is too easy for religion to simply fade into the background of life for most people, even those who practice their faith. Martyrs remind us that the worship of God is the most important thing, even more important than our lives.
When we think of the Age of Martyrs, PopeWatch suspects most of us call to mind the early Christians and their persecution by the Romans. The Pope is correct that we live in an age of martyrs. The greatest Age of Martyrs in the history of the Church was probably in the last century when tens of millions of Catholics were murdered for their faith. PopeWatch prays that in this century such persecutions of Catholics will not occur. PopeWatch also prays that if they do, that Catholics will once again be willing to die for the God who died for them.