Pope Francis' Prayer Intention for March, 2017: "That persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church."
Every year Pope Francis asks us to join him in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters. This year’s month of prayer for them falls during Lent, a good time to include fasting and alms-giving for them.
In his April 12, 2016 homily he said that Christians face two kinds of persecution. One is bloody. It began right after the birth of Jesus when King Herod killed babies as he sought to eliminate Christ. “From that time until today there have been martyrs in the Church—men and women persecuted simply for confessing and for saying that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Persecution “is the daily bread of the Church: after all, Jesus said so.”
The history of this “clear, explicit type of persecution” can be seen in Rome where “we go to the Colosseum and think of the martyrs killed there by lions.” And it is seen in countries like Pakistan where, last Easter, Christians were “martyred just for celebrating the Risen Christ.” He added that “the Church is the community of believers, the community of confessors, of those who profess that Jesus is Christ. Indeed, the Church is the community of martyrs.”
What is the second kind of persecution? It is “not often spoken about.” It is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress: it is a kind of—I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution.” It happens “when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God.”
This persecution is being institutionalized in the laws of nations that have historically been Christian. In this way “we see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted.” This is a “persecution that takes away man’s freedom” and the right to “conscientious objection.” “This is the persecution of the world when the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator.”
In both ways, the Church today is walking the Way of the Cross.