VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Tuesday reflected on the “polite persecution” of Christians that takes away their freedom in the disguise of modernity and progress.
“Persecution, I would say, is the daily bread of the Church. Jesus said so himself,” he said April 12.
During his Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, the Pope reflected on the death of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
A Christian is “one who must bear witness to Christ, who has saved us,” he said. He remembered the men and women “persecuted only for saying that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The martyrs were not limited to Roman times, those who were “thrown to the lions.” Rather, they are men and women of every age, he said, pointing to the dozens of Christians killed in Pakistan in a March 27 attack.
Pope Francis also considered persecution of Christians in general.
The Pope distinguished between two kinds of persecution: The first is clear and explicit, targeting someone who confesses the name of Jesus Christ. The other form of persecution is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress.”
“It is a kind of — I would say somewhat ironically — ‘polite persecution,’ when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God,” he said.
“We see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path,” he lamented. “Countries that do not want to follow these laws are accused and ‘politely persecuted.’”
This kind of persecution includes taking away the right to conscientious objection.
“God made us free, but this kind of persecution takes away freedom!”
“If you don’t do this, you will be punished: You’ll lose your job and many things; or you’ll be set aside,” he continued. “This is the persecution of the world.”
The Pope said “the prince of this world,” the devil, heads this “polite persecution.”
He said it is the “great apostasy” when “the powerful want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the children of God, persecute them and oppose God the Creator.”
Pope Francis reminded the faithful that God promised not to distance himself from them and promised to be with them. He prayed to God for “the grace to understand that a Christian’s path must always continue forward amid two kinds of persecution.”
A Christian must suffer many times, but “Jesus is always beside us, with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”