Blessed Are the Persecuted: Catechesis on Persecution

by Sandro Magister

ROME, April 23, 2012 – That Christians are the religious group most under attack in the world is a point of fact.

And that anti-religious violence is not on the decline, but on the rise, is also a fact confirmed in the news day after day. With Christians in the crosshairs more than anyone else.

Persecution has accompanied Christianity from the beginning. But how did the first Christians respond to violence?

Benedict XVI answered this question at the general audience last Wednesday, reading and explaining an illuminating page from the Acts of the Apostles. And drawing from it a lesson for the Christians of today.

In the face of persecution – the pope said – the first Christian community of Jerusalem "does not try to analyze how to react, what strategies to use, how to defend itself, what measures to adopt."

Put to the test, the community "does not become afraid and does not divide." It does not ask God for "payback," for revenge against the aggressors. "It does not ask for physical protection in the face of persecution."

This is what the first Christians do not do.

But in positive terms, how do the first Christians of Jerusalem behave when persecution hits them?

They take to prayer. To prayer in keeping with God's will.

In praying, they interpret their situation "in the light of Christ, which is the key to understanding persecution as well; the cross, which is always the key to the resurrection."

They understand that "just as happened to Jesus, so also the disciples encounter opposition, incomprehension, persecution."

And therefore, "precisely for this reason the request that the first Christian community of Jerusalem formulates to God in prayer is not that of being defended, of being spared from trial, from suffering, it is not a prayer for success, but only that of being able to proclaim with 'parresia,' meaning with frankness, with freedom, with courage, the Word of God."

In the account of the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit bursts into the place in which the Christians have gathered in prayer, and "drives the disciples of the Lord to go out fearlessly to carry the good news to the ends of the world."

This is what must also happen for the Christians of today: "As for the first Christian community, may prayer help us to interpret our personal and collective history in the most correct and faithful perspective, that of God."


Here is the entire lesson by Pope Benedict VI in his Wednesday Catechesis, "The Apostles' Response to Persecution"

 "Thought illuminated by prayer" must also be the soul of the governance of the Church, as Benedict XVI explained at the general audience of March 10, 2010, dedicated to the saint he has studied and loves the most: Saint Bonaventure: How to Pilot the Church in the Storm


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