In today’s Angelus, Pope Francis calls for a moment of silence and prayer for persecuted Christians. “There are more today than in the early days of the Church.” It is necessary to witness and report violations of religious freedom and discrimination. For the pontiff, it is also necessary to contemplate the crèche as an “atmosphere of understanding and brotherhood” that is “so beneficial to the common good” may grow “in families and communities”.
Followed the link and doubts grew when I read the words:
The Feast Day of Saint Stephen is “in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas” and dissolves “the false picture of Christmas as a mushy fairy tale that does not exist in the Gospel,” Pope Francis said in today’s Angelus before the many pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, on the day when the Church remembers its first martyr
I admit I don’t speak Spanish or Italian, so I a bit stuck. The only other link I could find to this was zenit.org/en/articles/pope-appeals-for-victims-of-religious-persecution which seemed to be more in line with his previous messages. I’m reserving any further comments or thoughts until other reputable resources publish and comment.:coffeeread:
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed on Thursday for Christians who suffer violence, discrimination and all manner of injustice because of their faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel. The Pope’s call for prayerful solidarity with persecuted faithful came on the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr, and a day after bomb attacks on a Catholic church and a Christian neighbourhood market in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed thirty-eight people. “We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds,” said Pope Francis. He went on to say, “This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realized.”
The Holy Father explained that, even in countries that have protections for freedom and human rights “on paper,” believers in general, “and especially Christians, encounter [abridgements of their liberty – It. limitazioni] and discrimination.”
Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks to note that there are indeed a great many Christians who suffer in these ways – more even than in the time of the first Christians – and paused to lead the faithful in praying the Ave, Maria! on their behalf. He went on to say that Christians ought not be surprised by such mistreatment, since Jesus said such things would happen and that they offer good occasion for profound witness. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Injustice in the civil [sphere] must be denounced and eliminated.”
Text from page en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/12/26/pope_francis:_angelus_appeal_on_behalf_of_persecuted_christians/en1-758837
of the Vatican Radio website
When the US Postal Service issued its Christmas stamp showing the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt, how many of us had to explain Herod’s persecution and the massacre of the innocents? Or that the Holy Family were warned by an angel about the impending slaughter and told to flee?
In the US (perhaps other countries, too) we have successfully turned Christmas into a happy-clappy holiday, It consists of several weeks of festivities culminating in a big gift exchange, and then its over. This version of Christmas is largely secular, but tinged with a bit of religion for tradition sake. It completely ignores the dark side of Christmas: the suffering that Christ’s arrival brought and the suffering he would endure at the end of his life.
I think the happy-clappy version of Christmas is what Pope Francis is criticizing when he speaks of the fairy tale image of Christmas. It is good to celebrate Christ’s birth, but that isn’t the end of the Christmas, it is only the beginning. The feast of St. Stephen, in which we recall his martyrdom, reminds us of the dark dimensions of Christmas. Innocent people suffered and died because of Christ’s arrival on Earth, and the persecution continues. We need to remember this, as we continue to celebrate the holiday of Christmas.