Pope Benedict: 'Church Will Always be Persecuted'

The first-ever martyr of the Christian church teaches us that followers of Christianity will always face persecution, Roman Catholic head, Pope Benedict XVI, has said.

The Pope explained the history of persecution amongst believers during a general audience in Paul VI hall, which he dedicated to the first martyr of the Christian church, St Stephen.

The words the Pope delivered were a continuation of a series he has been giving on the early church, following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Recalling the account of his martyrdom -- witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, the future St Paul -- the Pope explained that Stephen "speaks to us above all of Christ, of Christ crucified and risen as the centre of history and of our life."

St Stephen helps us to understand that "the cross occupies always a central place in the life of the church and also in our personal lives," the Pope told the 7,000 believers who had gathered.

He continued: "Passion and persecution will never be lacking in the history of the church, and, precisely persecution becomes ... source of mission for the new Christians."

He also highlighted that: "Also in our lives the cross, which will never be lacking, becomes a blessing, and accepting the cross, knowing that it becomes and is a blessing, we learn the joy of the Christian, even in moments of difficulty.

"The value of the testimony is irreplaceable, as the Gospel leads to Him and the Church is nourished of Him," stated the pope.

St. Stephen "teaches us to love the Cross, as it is the way through which Jesus always makes himself present again among us," he said.