Vatican Secretary of State presides over Mass for modern day martyrs

(Vatican Radio/l’Osservatore Romano) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, presided at Mass Tuesday evening in commemoration of the many men and women killed for their witness to the faith in the world today. They are the modern day martyrs whose memory is honored each year by the Catholic community of St Egidio in a special suffrage Mass in the basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, led the community in prayer for these men and women from Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, the Central African Republic who were ready to offer their lives for the Gospel. Also present at the gathering were representatives from the various Churches and Christian communities that have been marked by the blood of martyrs.

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Commenting on the passage from the Gospel of Mark proclaimed in the liturgy of the Word, Cardinal Parolin pointed to the union of the loving witness borne by Christians who do not flee derision and the prospect of death for their fidelity to God, and Christ himself who out of love for the Father endured derision from those who passed beneath the Cross. “Today’s prayer keeps their memory alive, because their legacy is alive. This legacy flows from lives that were often humble and frail, but that were steeped in love”.

Still today “in various contexts many of our brothers and sisters remain the object of anti-Christian hatred. They are not being persecuted not because they are vying for worldly, political, economic or military power, but precisely because they are tenacious witnesses of another vision of life, one of abasement, service, freedom, which is based on faith”. In their weakness, the Secretary of State said, “they are close to us, they show us that strength comes from God and that it is always possible to go forth and reach out to those who are far off, even those who see you as an enemy”. The Cardinal then emphasized the point by quoting the profound certainty expressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed”.

According to Open Doors, a nondenominational group tracking persecuted Christians worldwide, 2,123 Christians were killed last year due to their faith. More than half of those reported killings occurred in Syria, followed by over 600 in Nigeria and 88 in Pakistan. But North Korea — a country of more than 24 million, with an estimated 300,000 Christians — remained the most dangerous country worldwide for Christians for the 12th consecutive year, followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq.

(Photo AP: Priest Aysar Georgis walks past pictures of slain Iraqi Christians outside Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010. Iraqi Christians are marking a somber Christmas in the face of repeated violence by militants intent on driving their beleaguered community from Iraq. The writing in arabic reads,” Martyrs blood – seeds of life.”)

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