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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, Feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope explained how, "following the generation of the Apostles, martyrs came to acquire high standing in the Christian community. At times of greatest persecution, remembering and praising them brought relief to the faithful on their arduous journey and encouraged those seeking truth to convert to the Lord. Thus the Church, by divine disposition, venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them under such names as 'life masters' and 'living witnesses'".

  "The true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian authors have defined as 'the secret martyrdom'. ... Today, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel may call for the sacrifice of life, and many Christians in various parts of the world are subject to persecution and sometimes to martyrdom. But, as the Lord reminds us, 'the one who endures to the end will be saved'".

  "Let us pray to Most Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs, to maintain our desire for goodness intact, especially towards those who oppose us. In particular, let us today entrust the deacons of the Church to divine mercy so that, illumined by the example of St. Stephen, they may collaborate, in accordance with their specific mission, in the task of evangelisation".

Appeal for an end to violence in Nigeria

  After praying the Angelus the Pope said: "Christmas arouses, even more strongly, our prayer to God that violent hands may cease to spread death, and that justice and peace may reign in the world. Yet our earth continues to be stained with innocent blood. It was with great sadness that I heard the news of attacks which, this year too, on the Day of Christ's Birth, have brought mourning and pain to certain churches of Nigeria. I wish to express my sincere and affectionate closeness to the Christian communities and to everyone who has been affected by this senseless gesture, and I invite people to pray to the Lord for the many victims. I make this appeal that, with the collaboration of all components of society, security and serenity may be restored. At this time I wish to reiterate once again: violence is a way which leads only to suffering, destruction and death; respect, reconciliation and love are the only way to achieve peace".
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