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Pope Francis speaks about persecuted Christians

Pope Francis

At the beginning of Christianity, during the decades of communism, and even today, Christians are persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world," said Pope Francis at the audience opening the Lenten season of Easter.

Pope Francis reminded of the first martyrs of the Christian church. He mentioned that the ancient Roman cemetery beneath St. Peter’s Basilica also guards the graves of those executed for their faith.

“But today in the world there are many martyrs, perhaps even more than at the beginning. There are many who are persecuted for their faith,” declared the head of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis also mentioned a priest he called a “living martyr”: the 95-year-old Albanian Ernest Simoni, who spent twenty-eight years in prison during the communist era. Father Simoni is the only one still alive among the persecuted Catholic priests in Albania. The Pope met him during his visit to Albania in 2014, and in 2016, he appointed him as a cardinal. “He may have experienced the most brutal persecution. And yet, he persevered in his faith, and like him, many others do the same. (…) He works for the church without despair,” Pope Francis emphasized.

On the afternoon of Ash Wednesday, according to tradition, the Pope leads a station procession on Rome’s Aventine Hill, which goes from the Basilica of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Saint Sabina. During the ceremony, ashes, obtained from the olive branches used and burned during the previous year’s Easter in Italy, are sprinkled on the priests and the faithful.

Source: MTI

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