Pope Francis: 'There are more martyrs now than in the first centuries'


The Pope has pleaded once again for intervention to put an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. He also asked for prayers for the thousands of migrants who have lost their lives as they fled their homelands, and called for international cooperation to put an end to the criminals exploiting the desperation.

Pope Francis warned that there are now more Christians being martyred than in the first centuries of the Church, known as the "Age of Martyrs".

Bishop Flavien-Michel MalkéWikimedia

He was speaking at St Peter's, Rome, the day after the Syrian Catholic Bishop  was beatified at a monastery in Lebanon 100 years after he was martyred. Bishop Malké, who had refused to convert to Islam, was among 250,000 Syriac Christians and one million Armenians slain by Ottoman Turks from April 1915.

Pope Francis, referring to Bishop Malké and the terrible events of a century ago, said: "In the context of a terrible persecution of Christians, he was a tireless defender of the rights of his people, urging all to remain firm in the faith. Even today, dear brothers and sisters in the Middle East and other parts of the world, Christians are persecuted.

"There are more martyrs than in the first centuries. The beatification of this bishop martyr can instil consolation, courage and hope. But it is also a stimulus to legislators and government leaders because everywhere is ensured religious freedom. And I ask the international community to do something to put an end to violence and abuse."

The Pope also spoke about the migrant sufferings.

"Unfortunately, in recent days many migrants have lost their lives in their terrible travel," he said. "For all these brothers and sisters, I pray and ask you to pray."

In particular, he joined with the Austrian Cardinal Schönborn, who was present at St Peter's, in praying for the 71 people, including four children, found dead in truck on the Vienna-Budapest highway. Pope Francis said: "We entrust each of them to the mercy of God and we ask Him to help us to cooperate effectively to prevent these crimes, which offend the entire human family. We pray in silence for all migrants who suffer and for those who lost their lives."