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ICC Note: Pope Francis has described how the use of the word ‘genocide’ on Christians can underplay the great witness of faith and courage of these martyrs. He was not referencing the term politically, according to a vatican spokesman, but rather addressing the persecution on the essential dimension of faith. Francis spent over an hour responding to questions during his afternoon visit to Rom’s Villa Nazareth.

06/22/2016 Vatican City (NCR): Using the word “genocide” to describe the persecution of Christians in the Middle East risks downplaying the courage and witness of those who boldly profess faith in Jesus Christ even in the face of death, Pope Francis said.

“I want to say clearly that I do not like it when people speak of a ‘genocide of Christians,’ for example in the Middle East,” the pope said, responding to questions June 18. Calling the persecution “genocide,” he said, is using a juridical and sociological category to speak of “something which is a mystery of the faith: martyrdom.”

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Francis “was not speaking about the use of the term ‘genocide’ on a political level, but on a level of faith. When applied to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the dimension of faith is essential,” particularly when victims are murdered for not renouncing faith in Christ.

Francis spent more than an hour responding to questions during an afternoon visit to Rome’s Villa Nazareth, a residence for university students and headquarters of a foundation dedicated to helping gifted students who do not have the financial resources to continue their studies.

Asked how young people can find courage to live their faith, Francis said the Gospel calls Christians to give witness to their faith in Christ and to the reality that he died to redeem sinners “but is alive,” working in the lives of individuals and communities.

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