Pope Francis this evening sent a message of solidarity to Patriarch Matthias of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church following the release of a video showing the killing of 28 Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Libya. 

"With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya," the Pope wrote, adding that he was reaching out to Patriarch Matthias and his flock "in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia."

"It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant," the Pope went on. "Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands."

Pope Francis has often referred to an "ecumenism of blood", saying that persecution is uniting Christians. “They are witnesses to Jesus Christ," he said in January."They are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood.”

Francis has also frequently appealed to the international community to not be silent but to take a stand on behalf of persecuted Christians, widely believed to be the most persecuted religion in the world today. 

Recalling that this is the time of Easter, he ended the message by saying: "We know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions." 

Here below is the full text of the Pope's messsage:

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To His Holiness Abuna Matthias

Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church

With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Lybia. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I  reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.

It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands.

At this time we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women had brought the news that “Christ has risen from the dead”.  This year, that  joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

With heartfelt condolences I exchange with Your Holiness the embrace of peace in Christ Our Lord.