By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Reading the Gospel account of St. John the Baptist’s death on the feast of St. Paul Miki and other Japanese martyrs, Pope Francis said his thoughts naturally turn to those Christians being persecuted and killed today because of their faith.
“When I read this passage, I must confess, I get emotional,” the pope said Feb. 6 during the morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.
The pope gave two reasons why he is so moved by the passage from Mark’s Gospel about Herod ordering St. John the Baptist’s beheading: first, because of the situation of persecuted Christians today; and second, because it is a reminder that everyone, even the great prophets, will die.
“I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of today, those men, women and children who are persecuted, hated, chased from their homes, tortured and massacred,” he said. “This is not something from the past; it is happening today. Our martyrs are ending their lives under the corrupt authority of people who hate Jesus Christ.”
Pope Francis said it is important to remember the modern martyrs and those facing persecution. Feb. 6 is the feast of St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were killed in Japan in 1597, the pope said. The stunning thing is that such persecution continues “in 2015!”
The pope told the small congregation in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives that the Gospel passage also reminds him that everyone is on the same path toward “the ground, where we all will end up.”
“I, too, will meet my end,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “No one can ‘buy’ life. Whether we want to or not, we all are on the path toward the existential end of our lives. This, at least for me, makes me pray that at the end I will resemble, as closely as possible, Jesus Christ and his end.”
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