With Armenian Catholics, Pope Remembers Persecuted Christians

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Governments who not only take no action to stop anti-Christian persecution, but remain silent, are accomplices in their deaths, Pope Francis said during an early morning Mass with leaders of the Armenian Catholic Church.

During the Mass on 7 September in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis formally celebrated the unity existing between the Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic churches by sharing Communion with Patriarch Gregory Pierre XX Ghabroyan of Cilicia, who was elected by his fellow Armenian bishops on 24 July.

With all of the patriarchate’s bishops present, Pope Francis paid tribute to the enduring faith of Armenian Catholics through centuries of persecution.

Today, “perhaps more than in the early days” of Christianity, he said, Christians are “persecuted, killed, chased out, robbed just because they are Christians.”

The New Testament reminds Christians that persecution may be their fate, the pope said.

“Today, too, with this happening in the world with the complicit silence of many world powers who could stop it, we are facing this Christian fate,” he said. Persecuted Christians are following the same path Jesus trod.

“Reading newspapers today, we feel horror at what some terrorist groups are doing, slitting people’s throats just because they are Christians,” he said.

In 301, Armenia became the first nation as a whole to accept Christianity, the pope noted, and Armenians have endured successive waves of persecution since that time.

“On this day of our first Eucharist as brother bishops,” Pope Francis told the Armenians he wanted “to embrace you and remember the persecution that you have suffered and recall your saints, your many saints who died of hunger, of cold, from torture, who died in the desert just for being Christians.”

At the end of his homily, the pope prayed: “May the Lord today make us feel within the body of the church the love for our martyrs and also our vocation to martyrdom. We do not know what will happen here. We do not know. May the Lord give us the grace — should this persecution happen here one day — of the courage and the witness that all Christian martyrs have shown, and especially the Christians of the Armenian people.”

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