Pope’s call to remember persecuted Christians

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Pope Francis used his Palm Sunday homily to urge the world not to forget about persecuted Christians.
An estimated 70,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Mass at the start of Holy Week and the Pope’s homily reflected on the plight of Christians in the Middle East currently being persecuted by ISIS terrorists.

“We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time,” he said. “They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow Him on His way.”

The Holy Father ended the homily by calling on the faithful to undertake the Way of the Cross.

“Let us set about with determination along this same path with immense love for Him, Our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength,” he said. “For where He is, we too shall be.”

The Pope (above right) joined the pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in carrying palm fronds and branches. When standing on the basilica’s steps, he leaned on a simple wooden staff.

The Vatican later revealed the Pope had made a special donation to help people persecuted and displaced by violence in Iraq and in northern Nigeria.

Although not specifying the amount, the Vatican press office said that the Pope was sending the money to people seeking shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and to the Nigerian bishops’ conference to assist families in the northern part of the country where the terrorist group Boko Haram has been on a rampage.

In addition, the Vatican said, the people of the Rome Diocese, ‘united with their bishop,’ Pope Francis, held a special collection and will send Easter cakes to the displaced in Iraq.

“In Holy Week these families share with Christ the experience of being unjustly subjected to violence and they participate in the suffering of Christ himself,” the Vatican statement said.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who visited refugees and displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan last August, will return for Holy Week, the Vatican said. The cardinal is prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and the former nuncio to Iraq.

“Pope Francis is constantly concerned about the situation of Christian families and other groups who have been the victims of being expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and on the Nineveh Plain,” the Vatican said. ISIS terrorists have been active in the region.

“The Pope prays for them and hopes that they soon can return and resume their lives on the land and in the places where, for hundreds of years, they lived and wove relationships of peaceful co-existence with