Referencing the recent murder of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel, Pope Francis said the persecution of Christians happening today, under any form, is a work of Satan.
“This cruelty that asks for apostasy, let’s say the word, is satanic,” the Pope said in a homily Sept. 14.
“Today in the church there are more Christian martyrs than in the first times. Today there are Christians who are assassinated, tortured, jailed, their throats are cut because they don’t deny Jesus Christ,” Francis stated.
Pope Francis’ comments were made during an early morning Mass celebrated in memory of Fr. Jacques Hamel at Casa Santa Marta Wednesday.
Fr. Hamel, 85, was killed July 26 in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen, while saying Mass. The assailants, who were armed with knives, declared their allegiance to the Islamic State, and were later shot dead by police.
“To the first Christians, apostasy was proposed – that is, say that our god is the true one, not yours. Make a sacrifice to our god, or our gods. And when they didn’t do this, when they refused apostasy, they were killed. This is repeated today,” the Pope said.
“How much we would like that all of the religions would say that killing in the name of God is satanic.”
Pope Francis called Fr. Hamel one of the newest martyrs in what is a new wave of Christian persecution happening around the world, saying that the priest accepted his own martyrdom with Christ “on the cross.”
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated by the Church on Sept. 14 every year, Pope Francis talked about how Christ gave himself on the cross as a martyr for the salvation of humanity.
“Jesus Christ was the first martyr, the first that gave his life for us. And from this mystery of Christ comes all the history of Christian martyrdom,” he said.
Even in the difficult moment of his death, Fr. Hamel, Francis said, saw who his assassin was and he said clearly, “’Be gone, Satan!’”
Like the first Christian martyrs, Fr. Hamel “gave his life for us and he gave his life for not denying Christ. He gave it in the very sacrifice of Jesus on the altar,” the Pope said.
Among those present at the Sept. 14 Mass were the Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun, the sister of Fr. Hamel, and other pilgrims from Rouen. Several Cardinals, including French Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, were also present.
The altar held a photograph of Fr. Hamel and a bouquet of pink roses.
“He was a good, meek man, (a man) of fraternity who always sought to make peace. He was assassinated as if he were a criminal,” Pope Francis continued.
Fr. Hamel’s example helps all of us “to go forward without fear,” he said.
“May he from Heaven – and we should pray to him, eh, he’s a martyr!” the Pope said, “we have to pray to him that he give us the meekness, fraternity, peace, and also the courage to say the truth: To kill in the name of God is Satanic.”