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Persecution is a ‘shared experience’ that unites all Christians, says Pope Francis

Pope Francis salutes as he arrives to meet Evangelical Christian pastor Giovanni Traettino last year (Photo: AP)

The persecution and martyrdom of Christians around the world have become a “shared experience” and a common journey that unites all who give witness to Christ.

The Pope sent a message addressed to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who was attending the Global Christian Forum that was meeting in Tirana, Albania. The Vatican has released a copy of the message.

Participants of the forum, an ecumenical institution made up of representatives of various Christian churches, were reflecting on the plight of Christians who face discrimination, persecution and martyrdom.

Greeting the participants of the gathering, the Pope remembered those Christian communities, especially those in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, that were “suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ”. The meeting of the Global Christian Forum, he said, showed that “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,” he said.

The Pope said the communion of martyrs was the “greatest sign of our journeying together” and that the meeting would give a voice to those suffering injustice and violence. Assuring his closeness to those suffering persecution, Pope Francis conveyed his hope that today’s martyrs “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 toward full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding,” the Pope said.