Vatican City, 5 November 2015 (VIS) – A message was published today from the Holy Father to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and all the participants in the meeting of the Global Christian Forum which took place in Tirana, Albania from 2 to 4 November on the theme “Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together”.
The Pope extends special greetings to brothers and sisters of different Christian traditions who represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. “I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere throughout the world. Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters”.
“In various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities”, the Pope observed. “The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together. At the same time, your gathering will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation”.
Francis concludes by assuring all those present of his spiritual closeness, and expressing his hope that the martyrs of today, belonging to many Christian traditions, “help us to understand that all the baptised are members of the same Body of Christ, His Church. Let us see this profound truth as a call to persevere on our ecumenical journey towards full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding”.
The Forum urged persecutors to cease their violence, and exhorted governments to respect and protect religious freedom, and especially to protect Christians and others persecuted for their religious beliefs and the media to reflect appropriately on violations of religious freedom and the discrimination and persecution of Christians.
During the three days of the meeting, the participants began the day with prayer in the orthodox cathedral of Tirana, dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, the Centre of the Evangelical Alliance of Albania, and the Catholic St. Paul's Cathedral, to pray for the 200 million Christians persecuted in the world. The Forum concluded on the day on which Albanese Catholics commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the Catholic cemetery of Scutari by a priest who survived 50 years of atheist communism in Albania.