Pope Francis highlighted the persecution of Christians during his weekly General Audience at the Vatican on April 29.
At the conclusion of his series of catechesis on the Beatitudes, the Holy Father noted the persecution of Christians, which he said is greater now than it was even in the early centuries of Christianity.
Pope Francis has repeatedly pointed out that more Christians have died in the past century than in all prior centuries since Jesus’ time combined.
It is believed that nearly a million Christians were martyred in the decade between 2005 and 2015 alone.
“We must hope and pray that their tribulation will be ended as soon as possible,” said the pontiff.
He called on Christians to express their closeness to their persecuted brothers and sisters, who he said are “the bleeding members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”
The pope, however, warned against a “self-pitying attitude,” or “victim mentality.”
He said that when Christians are despised by others, it is not always synonymous with persecution.
He said sometimes the faithful are at fault because “we have lost the taste of Christ and of the Gospel.”
Pointing to the example of St. Paul, Pope Francis noted that when the apostle realized that he was self-righteous, he became “a man of love, who faced gladly the persecution he suffered.”
The pontiff said that accepting Christ’s Spirit can lead the faithful to truly love the world, even to the point of offering their lives “without compromising with its deceptions.”
The Save the Persecuted Christians, a coalition of faith leaders and civil society, has earlier warned that the coronavirus pandemic has made the situation of many Christians more difficult.
“For those who were already facing incredible persecution their situation has been exacerbated by the crisis as it has put them in even more danger than they were in before,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of the coalition.
According to a biannual report from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a pontifical foundation that helps persecuted Christians, 300 million Christians experienced persecution between 2017 and 2019.