Pope Francis Speaks on Christian Martyrdom, ISIS and the Ecumenism of Blood. Are we Listening?
Pope Francis gave an interview on December 1, 2014. It took place on the plane on his return from a pastoral visit to Turkey.
Among several of the characteristically frank comments he gave to the Press, he spoke of the time that he had spent with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.
Francis returned to a theme which he now regularly addresses, what he calls an “ecumenism of blood“.
Francis explained to the Press:
Our martyrs are crying out: we are one. This is what the ecumenism of the blood is. We must follow this path courageously and carry on moving forward. If we wait for theologians to reach an agreement, that day will never come!
This theme was also echoed by the Patriarch during that historic visit. At the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul, the Patriarch said:
We no longer have the luxury of isolated action. The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew embraced one another as brothers, and friends. Then, the successor of Peter bowed his head and sought a blessing from his brother in the Lord, Patriarch Bartholomew.
Like much of what Francis does, the request of this blessing from Patriarch Bartholomew was prophetic. It also reflected the humility of this servant of the servants of God.
Back when it occurred I suggested it may be much more. I suggested that it pointed toward the growing movement toward full communion between Eastern and Western Christianity.
Now, in the wake of the evil murders which perpetrated by the Islamic State against 21 Coptic Christians, Pope Francis is again using this powerful and disquieting expression.
It is taking on an even more profound implications, as our new missionary age unfolds.
On Monday morning, February 16, 2015, in a meeting with the moderator of the Church of Scotland who was on a visit to the Holy See, Francis used the expression in his remarks.
The entire address can be read here.
However, I point to the following words:
The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out. I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’
They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus.
The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!
Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.
As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.
The English word Martyr is derived from a Greek word which means witness.
The Christian Church has always proclaimed that the shedding of one’s blood in fidelity to Jesus Christ is the final witness to the Christian Faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms:
Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude (CCC Numbers 2471 – 2473)
What is happening to our Christian brethren in the Middle East – and Africa – Christian martyrdom at the hands of evil, militant Jihadist Islamists – must not be underestimated. It has important implications.
Also, we need to wake up. The threat of violent, evil, Jihadist activity is not decreasing. It is increasing and spreading.
We need to live prepared.
I still remember what was once called the cold war. I recall the drills we went through when I was a just child in elementary school, where we hid under our desks.
I also remember the National resolve we had! We stood together against that form of tyranny. We called it what it was and refused to cower in the face of its threat to authentic human freedom.
Militant Islamic radicalism, of the kind practiced by ISIS and other groups such as the various expressions of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and others, makes the threat of militant Marxism look mild in comparison.
Are we paying attention? Are standing against it? Are we calling it what it is?
The victims of this current reign of evil inflicted by radical Jihadist Islamists are being killed precisely because they are Christians.
The blood of the Christian martyrs is flowing as militant Islamic terrorism increases.
What some might have considered an arrogant boast, perhaps a delusional grandiose overstatement by the leaders of ISIS, when it was made – that they they would establish a Caliphate by the sword – is now proving to be anything but a boast.
To these deluded Islamist militants, it is a battle plan. They actually believe they are on the side of their “god.”
Those who routinely sever heads, crucify children, burn soldiers alive and engage in carnage in the name of their “god” – are threatening to use what they see as a new beachhead in Northern Africa as a bridge to the European continent.
They have a Media company called Al Hayat Media.
It produced a video titled, “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross” to boast of this evil. They paraded the simultaneous beheading of 21 Christians before the whole world.
All who bear the name Christian, and actually understand the implications of that name, are the subject to which this video is addressed.
We need to hear – and pay attention to – the words of the spokesmen for the evil men who committed this demonic act against our 21 brothers in Christ:
All praise is due to Allah the strong and mighty. And may blessings and peace be upon the ones sent by the sword as a mercy to all the worlds.
Oh people, recently you have seen us on the hills of Al-Sham and Dabiq’s plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time, and today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message.
All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes especially if you are fighting us all together.
Therefore we will fight you all together. The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.
Then, as they deliberately and simultaneously beheaded the 21 Christian Martyrs, they showed their blood flowing into the sea.
As the footage unfolded, the spokesman proudly and defiantly proclaimed:
And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him.
The words attributed to Tertullian in the Second Century of the Church echo in our day: “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
We are living in a new missionary age. The Church will never be defeated. The gates of hell itself will not prevail against her. (Matt. 16:17-19) However, the advocates of her destruction are advancing and we must not underestimate their fury.
Pray for our brethren in the Middle East and Africa. Understand the evil designs of these Islamist Jihadists. Be not afraid! Pray. Get ready.
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