ROME— Pope Francis on Tuesday warned against an “educated persecution” of Christians today, saying Christians are not only under threat by those trying to kill them, but also by those who want to limit their freedom and their right to conscientious objection.
“There’s a persecution of which not much is being said,” Francis said during his daily morning Mass in Santa Marta, the Vatican residence where he lives. It’s a persecution, he said, “cross-dressed as culture, cross-dressed as modernity, cross-dressed as progress.”
The pope said this “educated” persecution occurs not when a person “confesses the name of Christ, but for wanting to have and to manifest the values of a Son of God.”
“We see every day that the powerful countries create laws that force us to go through this path … a nation that doesn’t follow these modern laws, these cultures, or that at least doesn’t want to have them in its laws, is accused, is politely persecuted,” Francis said.
“It’s a persecution that robs man of his freedom, even from conscientious objection!” he added.
More famous for his “Who am I to judge?” sound-bite than for his defense of conscientious objection, it’s nevertheless an issue Francis has spoken about before.
For instance, on the way back from his trip to the United States in September 2015, he was asked about individuals, including government officials, who refuse to comply with a law or carry out their duties as government officials – for instance, by declining to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples.
“Conscientious objection is a right, and part of the body of all human rights,” the pope said. “If we want to make peace, we must respect all rights.”
Days before, also during his visit to the United States, Francis paid an unscheduled visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor, in what his spokesman later said was a show of support for the nuns’ demands for a “conscience” exemption to the contraception mandates imposed as part of the Obama administration’s health care reform.
According to t report by Vatican Radio, the pontiff made no specific reference during his homily as to what he meant when he spoke about countries imposing laws on others. This, however, is not new from Francis either.
He’s used similar vocabulary to object what he calls an “ideological colonization” of developing countries by Western nations, which put a “prize tag” on material aid, generally in the form of more permissive laws on matters such as contraception, abortion and gay marriage.
“The persecution, I would say, is the daily bread of the Church, Jesus told us about this,” Francis said on Tuesday.
Using Rome’s Coliseum as an example, he added that when touring the city many visitors believe “martyrs” were those killed by lions under the ancient Roman emperors.
“They are men and women of every day: Today, on Easter Sunday, just three weeks ago … Those Christians celebrating Easter in Pakistan were martyred because they were celebrating the Risen Christ,” Francis said.
These persecutions- the “educated” one, and that which leads to martyrdom, Francis said – have “a boss”: “Jesus named him the Prince of this World,” he said, meaning the Devil.
“And when the powers want to impose attitudes, laws against the dignity of the Son of God, they persecute and go against the Creator, against God. It is the great apostasy,” he continued. “So the life of Christians continues with these two persecutions. The Lord has promised us He will not abandon us. ‘Be careful, be careful! Do not give in to the spirit of the world. Be careful! But always onwards, I will be with you.'”