POPE EXPRESSES “GREAT SADNESS” AT ESCALATING ANTI-CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION
The Vatican today published a Message from Pope Francis to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and to all the participants in the three-day meeting of the Global Christian Forum that ended yesterday in Tirana, Albania. The theme of the meeting was “Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together.”
Delegates of the Global Christian Forum, at the end of their last meeting in October 2011 in Manado, Indonesia, said they would like, in their next meeting, to address concerns that are common to the different religions and the issue that came to the forefront was precisely the theme chosen this year: “Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together.” The Tirana Forum urged persecutors to cease their violence, and exhorted governments to respect and protect religious freedom, especially those persecuted for their beliefs.
To prepare the consultation for the 2015 meeting in Albania the GCF held a planning group that included representatives appointed by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. The consultation was to give leaders who experienced discrimination and persecution the chance to meet one another, unite their voices and have their stories heard. The GCF is based in Strasbourg, France.
Pope Francis opened his Message by greeting “our brothers and sisters of different Christian traditions who represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere throughout the world. Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters.”
The Holy Father underscored how, “in various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together. At the same time, your gathering will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation.”