His comments follow the Easter Sunday Massacre of Pakistani Christians
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
VATICAN CITY (ANS – April 17, 2016) – Following the shocking Easter Sunday attack on Pakistani Christians, Pope Francis has said that “Persecution Is the Christian’s Daily Bread.”
He was referring to the terrorist attack when at least 72 people were killed and more than 320 others injured when a suicide bomber targeting Christians blew himself up in a busy park in Lahore, while Christians were enjoying the sunshine after spending Easter Sunday morning in local churches.
Lahore Police Chief, Haider Ashraf, said at the time, “Mostly women and children were killed and injured in the blast,” adding that the park was “busier than usual” as Easter Sunday was being celebrated. “He chose a soft target and that’s why he went towards women and children in the park.”
Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D., in a story carried by the Breitbart News Service (http://www.breitbart.com), said, “From the earliest centuries to our own time, martyrdom is always present in the Christian Church, Pope Francis said Tuesday, in recalling the scores of Pakistani Christians slaughtered in the Easter Day massacre just two weeks ago, and the many who suffer for religious liberty under unjust laws.”
Williams, who is Permanent research fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame University, went on to say, “In his homily during Mass at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, the Pope commented on the liturgical readings of the day that recounted the death of the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, who was stoned to death in the first century AD.
“And ‘from that time to the present day there are martyrs in the Church, there always have been and there still are.’ They are the ‘men and women persecuted for confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord,’ he said.”
Williams went on to state that Francis said that it is easy to think of martyrdom as a thing of the past, while in reality, it continues to the present day. When tourists come to Rome and visit the Colosseum, Francis said, they easily recognize that “the martyrs were the ones killed by the lions,” and while they are correct, “those were not the only martyrs.”
In fact, he continued, the “martyrs” are men and women of every age who give their lives for their faith and witness to the truth. Just two weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, he continued, all those Pakistani Christians were martyred “just for celebrating the risen Christ.”
Williams, then said that on Easter, in fact, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack on Christians in a large park in Lahore, where hundreds of families had gathered to celebrate the feast of Easter. Among the 72 victims were more than 30 small children, who at the time of the blast were playing sports and outdoor games.
“Persecution,” the Pope said, “is one of the characteristics, one of the traits in the Church, and it pervades her history.” And persecution is “cruel,” Francis said, “like that of Stephen, like that of our brothers in Pakistan.”
And the history of the Church is accompanied by martyrs, Francis said, because “the Church is the community of believers, the community of confessors, of those who profess that Jesus is the Messiah, the community of martyrs.”
The day’s Bible passage stated that after Stephen’s martyrdom “a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem” and all the Christians fled, with only the apostles remaining. And so, Francis said, “persecution is the Church’s daily bread.”
“But Francis also insisted that there are two sorts of persecution: the explicit sort, such as suffered by the Pakistani Christians slaughtered on Easter, and a more subtle persecution, which robs people of their religious freedom and the right to follow their consciences,” wrote Williams.
“This second, subtle persecution appears ‘dressed up as culture, modernity and progress,’ Francis said, and seems to be a ‘enlightened persecution.’
“And so ‘every day we see that authorities make laws that mandate following a certain path,’ and those who do not follow these modern, enlightened laws are ‘accused and persecuted in an enlightened way.’”
This, said Pope Francis, is a “persecution that takes man’s freedom away, even conscientious objection! God made us free, but this persecution takes away your freedom! And if you do not do this, you will be punished: you will lose your job … or you will be set aside.”
Williams then cited several recent examples of this sort of unjust legislation to which the Pope was alluding exist.
Francis’ words coincide with the ongoing U.S. Supreme Court trial of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns who oppose the HHS mandate obliging them to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, something they claim not to be able to do in good conscience.
During his visit to the United States in September 2015, the Pope made a special stop at the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor to show his support.
In his letter on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia, the Pope lamented that many countries “are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family,” which, he said, cannot bode well for the future of society.
And so “the life of Christians has been going on with these two persecutions,” Francis said Tuesday, but also with the certainty that “the Lord has promised never to abandon us.” But “be careful!” Francis said. “Do not fall into the spirit of the world.”
Photo captions: 1) Pope Francis waves to the crowds as he arrives in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo: Tony Gentile/Reuters). 2) Illustration of the stoning of Saint Stephen. 3) Paramedics treat a victim in Lahore bomb blast. 4) Victims’ relatives cry outside a hospital in Lahore. (Photo: Rahat Dar/EPA). 3) Dan Wooding with many of his 45 books (OC Register).
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, raised in the UK, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is Mary, My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com), a novel which tells the story of Jesus through the eyes of his beloved mother. Dan also has a radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California.
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