Praises Ukrainians who risked their lives to give future generations "an eloquent witness of firm faith, of living faith, of Catholic faith"
Pope Francis says that the fidelity of the martyrs is a gift from the Lord and that the Christian community will always have martyrs among us.
Francis said this as he continued his reflection on Acts of the Apostles and the ministry of St. Paul on his way to Rome, in chains for the Gospel.
The pope said at the general audience that before arriving with the pilgrims from all over the world, he had met with a group from a Ukrainian diocese.
“How this people has been persecuted! How much they have suffered for the Gospel! But they did not negotiate their faith. They are an example,” he said.
Francis noted that martyrdom is very much a reality today.
Today in the world, in Europe, so many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, or are persecuted “with white gloves,” that is, they are set aside, marginalized…
But martyrdom, he continued, is “the air we breathe in the life of a Christian, of a Christian community.”
There will always be martyrs among us: this is the sign that we are walking along the way of Jesus. It is a blessing from the Lord, that there may be among the people of God, someone who gives a witness of martyrdom.
When Francis met with the Ukrainian pilgrims, he remembered the martyr Blessed Bishop Teodor Romža, “who in the darkest moments of your history was able to guide God’s people with evangelical wisdom and courage; a tireless man, following the example of Christ the Good Shepherd, to the point of giving his life for his flock.”
And he went on to praise all the ordinary people, the “ancestors, grandparents and grandmothers, fathers and mothers” of these pilgrims:
who in the intimacy of their homes, and often under the watchful eye of the hostile regime, risking their freedom and their lives, transmitted the teaching of the truth of Christ and offered to future generations, of whom you are representatives, an eloquent witness of firm faith, of living faith, of Catholic faith.