Modern martyrs entrusted to Mary

Pope Francis has entrusted contemporary Christian victims of religious persecution to the care of Mary.

Speaking when leading the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on St Stephen’s Day, the Pope likened today’s martyrs to the first martyr, saying, “May the Virgin Mary, to whom we entrust all those – and, sadly there are so many who, like Stephen, suffer persecution in the name of the Faith – orient our prayer to receive and to give forgiveness. 

“There are so many martyrs today,” he added.

Describing St Stephen as a faithful witness, because of his living as Jesus did, knowing how to love, to give and especially to forgive, the Pontiff said forgiveness leads to real results. Among those for which Stephen begged forgiveness, the Pope explained, was St Paul, such that “we can say that Paul was born by God’s grace and Stephen’s forgiveness”.

While he said forgiveness “is always very difficult”, he said we must nonetheless never tire of seeking God’s forgiveness, since “only when we are forgiven can we learn to forgive”, and “through forgiveness we overcome evil with good, we transform hate into love and so we make the world cleaner”.

In entrusting today’s martyrs to Mary, the Pope followed a theme he had explored in his Urbi et Orbi Christmas Day address, during which he said that “only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst,” continuing, “the grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations”.

As instances of such situations he cited crises in Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Paris and elsewhere.

“We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people,” he said, continuing, “It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.”

Appealing for the attention of the international community to focus on ending atrocities in such beleaguered countries, he also expressed sorrow for “those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis” and prayed that “consolation and strength” should be granted to “our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith”.