At morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today, the Holy Father noted the unprecedented numbers of Christians persecuted for their faith, adding their blood has “fertilized” the Church.
The Pope directed faithful to realize that although the Church is growing, it is “irrigated by the blood of martyrs."
“There are more martyrs in the Church today, than in the early centuries,” the Pope said. He lamented, "It's true that many Christians had been persecuted in the time of Nero,” but "today there are not any less.”
Reflecting, Francis said, “Think of the Middle East, Christians have to flee from persecution, Christians are killed by their persecutors.” He reminded those present of the prayer at the beginning of the Mass which recalls that the Church has been "fertilized with the blood of the martyrs.”
The Holy Father recalled an analogy Jesus made: "'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who has thrown down seed. When then man goes home, whether he is awake or asleep, the seed grows, sprouts.” He continued, “This seed is the Word of God that grows into the Kingdom of God, and becomes the Church.”
He said two elements make this growth possible: the power of the Holy Spirit and Christian witness.
Without the Holy Spirit, the Church cannot grow, the Pontiff said. Yet, the Spirit is not sufficient for growth, he added the Church also requires the testimony of Christians. "The martyrs produced the greatest witnesses," he said.
“The Church is watered by the blood of the martyrs. And this is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and may end up as Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood," he added.
Pope Francis concluded his homily, urging the faithful to remember “our glorious ancestors, here in Rome,” and to think of “our persecuted brothers and sisters, living and suffering.”