As reported by Christian Today, during an interview with the Spanish-language La Vanguardia magazine on June 13, Pope Francis declared that “persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church.” The comment came as he condemned acts of persecution against Christians and violence in the name of God.
“Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it’s not because of fantasy, it’s because of the numbers. … The persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me very deeply as a pastor,” he said.
“Violence in the name of God does not correspond with our time,” he continued. “It’s something ancient. With historical perspective, one has to say that Christians, at times, have practiced it. When I think of the Thirty Years War, there was violence in the name of God. Today it is unimaginable, right? We arrive, sometimes, by way of religion to very serious, very grave contradictions.”
Despite his candid discussion of increasing persecution and martyrdom in the church, Pope Francis admitted that he has eliminated some of the personal security procedures taken with him when he enters the public eye.
“I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God,” he said. “I remember that in Brazil they had prepared a closed Popemobile for me, with glass, but I couldn’t greet the people and tell them that I love them from within a sardine tin.”
“Let’s be realistic, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he added.
According to Paul Marshall with the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, contemporary persecution of Christians is an urgent concern because it is “occurring on a massive scale, underreported and growing rapidly in many parts of the world.” Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that Christians are persecuted in more countries today than any other religious group.