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Blood of Christians is ‘a testimony which cries out to be heard,’ says Pope Francis

Pope Francis (CNS)

The blood of Christians “is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil,” Pope Francis has said.

The Pope made his comments in a message of support to Abuna Matthias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, after ISIS released a video depicting the slaughter of Christians in Libya, showing footage of two massacres in which 30 Ethiopian Christians were killed.

In the message, released by the Vatican, the Pope spoke of his “profound sorrow” and offered the patriarch “heartfelt spiritual solidarity”.

“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya,” the Pope said.

“I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

“I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.”

He added: “It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ.”

The latest ISIS atrocities were captured in a 29-minute video, entitled Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence. In one massacre 15 Christians were beheaded; in the other 15 people were shot in the head.

Meanwhile, Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Bishops of England Wales’s International Affairs department, has prayed for the murdered Ethiopian Christians.

In a statement, he said that that the Christian faith “encourages us to stand in solidarity with all those vulnerable peoples and communities across the the Middle East and North Africa region region that spurn merciless and ungodly ideologies.”

He said: “ISIS has a two-fold strategy. On the one hand, they and their followers are executing their own warped version of Islam, on the other, they are trying – desperately in some cases – to enrage world opinion so that our reactions of anger and retribution would justify in their own minds their heinous crimes and lead to further deaths and executions.

“Today, we pray for the repose of the souls of those innocent victims just as we prayed for the Coptic Christians who were killed in Libya too. We also pray for the families of those men who now have to cope not only with the loss of their loved ones, but also the loss of any economic support.”

Full text of the Pope’s letter:

To His Holiness Abuna Matthias

Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church

With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.

It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands.

At this time we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women had brought the news that “Christ has risen from the dead”. This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

With heartfelt condolences I exchange with Your Holiness the embrace of peace in Christ Our Lord.

From the Vatican, 20 April 2015