CNA Newsroom, Dec 26, 2022 / 06:07 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Monday called on Catholics to pray for those who have harmed them — and those persecuted — as he renewed his Christmas call for peace in Ukraine and worldwide.
Speaking to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square after praying the Angelus Dec. 26, the pontiff said: “I renew my wish for peace: peace in families, peace in parishes and religious communities, peace in movements and associations, peace for those war-torn peoples, peace for the dear and martyred Ukraine.”
On the feast of the martyr St. Stephen, the pope said “the martyrs are those most similar to Jesus.”
“Indeed, the word martyr means witness: the martyrs are witnesses, that is, brothers and sisters who, through their lives, show us Jesus, who conquered evil with mercy. And even in our day, martyrs are numerous, more so than in the early times”, Pope Francis said.
“Today let us pray for these persecuted martyr brothers and sisters, who bear witness to Christ. But it will do us good to ask ourselves: do I bear witness to Christ? And how can we improve in this? We can indeed be helped by the figure of Saint Stephen.”
Stephen, the pontiff noted, spoke of Jesus to those he met and was not intimidated even by the threats of his persecutors. “Charity and proclamation, this was Stephen. However, his greatest testimony is yet another: that he knew how to unite charity and proclamation. He left it to us at the point of his death when, following the example of Jesus, he forgave his killers.”
The faithful “can improve our witness through charity towards our brothers and sisters, fidelity to the Word of God, and forgiveness. Charity, Word, forgiveness. It is forgiveness that tells whether we truly practice charity towards others, and if we live the Word of God.”
Playing on the connection between the Italian word for forgiveness — perdono — and the Italian word for a gift — dono — the pope explained that forgiveness is a gift “we give to others because we belong to Jesus, forgiven by him.”
The pontiff added: “Let us ask the newborn Jesus for the newness of a heart capable of forgiveness: we all need a forgiving heart! Let us ask the Lord for this grace: Lord, may I learn to forgive. Let us ask for the strength to pray for those who have hurt us, to pray for those who have harmed us, and to take steps of openness and reconciliation.”
Pope Francis concluded with a prayer to “Mary, Queen of martyrs” to “help us to grow in charity, in love of the Word and in forgiveness.”
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