Church Will Always Be Persecuted, Pope Says
But the Cross Is a Blessing
The Pope’s message in honor of the first Christian martyr is a short but excellent meditation on persecution and how we ought to respond to it.
Zenit.org (1/10/07) – The Church’s first martyr teaches that persecution will never be lacking in the history of the Church, Benedict XVI says.
The Pope made these comments during today’s general audience in Paul VI hall, which he dedicated to the figure of St. Stephen. The meditation is a continuation of a series he has been giving on the first Christians.
Recalling the account of his martyrdom — witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul — the Bishop of Rome explained that Stephen “speaks to us above all of Christ, of Christ crucified and risen as the center of history and of our life.”
St. Stephen helps us to understand that: “The cross occupies always a central place in the life of the Church and also in our personal lives,” the Pontiff explained to some 7,000 people present.
“Passion and persecution will never be lacking in the history of the Church,” the Holy Father said. “And, precisely persecution becomes source of mission for the new Christians,” he underlined.
“Also in our lives the cross, which will never be lacking, becomes a blessing,” the Pope added. “And, accepting the cross, knowing that it becomes and is a blessing, we learn the joy of the Christian, even in moments of difficulty.”
Love the cross
Benedict XVI said: “The value of the testimony is irreplaceable, as the Gospel leads to Him and the Church is nourished of Him.”
St. Stephen “teaches us to love the Cross, as it is the way through which Jesus always makes himself present again among us,” he said.
The papal catechesis recalled that the first seven deacons, among them St. Stephen, were appointed by the apostles to help the first Christians who lived in poverty.
The Pope added that Stephen understood that it is “not possible to disassociate charity from proclamation” of Christ.
The Holy Father said: “With charity, he proclaims Christ crucified, to the point of also accepting martyrdom Charity and proclamation always go together.”
The Pontiff’s address continued the series of meditations he is offering on the most important personalities of the nascent Church, after having reflected on the figures of the apostles.