Pope Francis begs governments to act to stop anti-Christian persecution

"Do something to put a stop to the violence and oppression," Pope Francis asked the international community after calling attention once again to the fate of persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East.

After reciting the Angelus Aug. 30, Pope Francis told thousands of people in St. Peter's Square that, the previous evening in Lebanon, martyred Syriac Bishop Flavien-Michel Malke was beatified.

Advertisement

"In the context of a tremendous persecution of Christians, he was an untiring defender of the rights of his people, exhorting all of them to remain firm in their faith," the pope said.

"Today as well, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, Christians are persecuted," the pope said. "May the beatification of this bishop and martyr fill them with consolation, courage and hope."

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people in the square, "There are more martyrs [today] than there were in the first centuries" of Christianity.

He prayed that the beatification would "also be a stimulus for legislators and those who govern so that religious freedom would be guaranteed everywhere. And I ask the international community to do something to put a stop to the violence and oppression."

The beatification liturgy for Bishop Malke was celebrated in Harissa, Lebanon, Aug. 29, the 100th anniversary of his death. Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan presided at the liturgy; Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes was present.

As the Ottoman Empire crumbled in the early 1900s, there were waves of violence and persecution against Christian minorities, especially the Armenians and Syrians. Bishop Malke was the Syriac Catholic bishop of Gazireh, which today is the city of Cizre, Turkey. Although advised to flee, the bishop stayed with his people and was arrested.

Cardinal Amato said the bishop was told that if he converted to Islam, his life would be spared, but he refused and was beheaded.

According to the Vatican, the bishop was born in 1858 in Qal'at Mara in what is now southeastern Turkey. Although his family was Orthodox, he became a Syriac Catholic and joined the Fraternity of St. Ephrem. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1883 and named bishop of Gazireh in 1913.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Women served as deacons in Europe for about a millennium in a variety of ministerial and sacramental roles.
Brandon SanchezJanuary 15, 2019
In preparation for the gathering in Abu Dhabi, I find myself asking why my conversations with the future Pope Francis so powerfully affected both of us.
Abraham SkorkaJanuary 15, 2019
Photo: iStock
Included on the list is John T. Ryan, S.J., who from 1989 to 1994 was an associate editor for development at America.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 15, 2019
Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? What sins did Jesus have to repent of? Nothing.
James Martin, S.J.January 14, 2019