On Dec. 26, Pope Francis addressed thousands at St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of Saint Stephen, to deliver the Angelus Domini. Also known as Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day is one of the Christian feast days that honors Saint Stephen. Stephen is the first martyr in the New Testament church and is referred to as a protomartyr. Saint Stephen’s Day or Boxing Day is always observed on Dec. 26, the day following Christmas. The Pope delivers the Angelus Domini live from Vatican City annually, and this year he followed the Angelus with a special prayer for the Christmas Day plane crash victims in Russia. You may see recent videos from the Vatican in the video player above. See the video below to only watch the Angelus.
The Vatican shared a number of photos from Vatican City before the Angelus began. The photos showed the scene at St. Peter’s Square as thousands gathered to hear Pope Francis speak live and pray over the city.
More photos followed showing Pope Francis speaking to the large crowd that had gathered below.
The Angelus and prayer for Russia was translated into English and posted on the Vatican’s English news site. You may read the full transcript and translation at the site. The Pope offered a special prayer for suffering Christians and those who are facing martyrdom right now. As Christians around the world are facing death and torture at the hands of extreme terrorists, (read ISIS declares war on Rome, by the Independent Journal Review) the Pope remarked about the steadfast faith of Iraqi Christians who boldly celebrated Christmas yesterday as reported by the BBC. The pope stated the following in the Angelus.
“Today we want to think about them and to be close to them with our affection, our prayer and our tears. Yesterday, Christmas Day, the persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed Cathedral. [Theirs] is an example of fidelity to the Gospel. Despite the trials and the dangers, they bear witness with courage to their belonging to Christ and they live the Gospel committing themselves on behalf of the least, the most overlooked, doing good to all without distinction; they bear witness in this way to charity in truth.”
The Pope spoke about repaying evil with love. The words did not fall on deaf ears as, after several years of terror and bloodshed in the Middle East, the Christian population has been dramatically cut down. Pope Francis pointed to Saint Stephen’s martyrdom and sacrifice as being an example of choosing faith in Jesus Christ above all else. Jesus Christ died for mankind and as Stephen was the first martyr, the Pope reminded the faithful that sacrifice and persecution is to be expected. The Pope explained in the Angelus as follows.
“Today too the Church, to bear witness to light and truth, experiences harsh persecution in different places, [to the point of] the supreme test of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated for Jesus’ sake! I’ll tell you something. The martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the early centuries, here in Rome, we read about so much cruelty towards Christians. I tell you, there is this same cruelty today, and in greater numbers with Christians.”
The Pope reminded the listeners that Christians must stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. He spoke about the widespread persecuted church and called martyrdom the extreme test of the Christian faith. The Pope called on Christians to bring their affections, prayers and tears to and for suffering Christians. These sentiments truly express the call to comfort, love and pray for those who are facing abuse, trials, torture and death for their faith.
Following the Angelus, the Pope addressed the Christmas Day plane crash that left 92 dead near Sochi, Russia. The Pope expressed the following prayer for consolation for the victims’ families and Russia as a whole. The Pope then commented that the Red choir had performed at the Vatican in 2004.
“I express my sincere condolences for the sad news of the Russian plane that crashed into the Black Sea. May the Lord console the dear Russian people and the families of the passengers who were on board: journalists, crew and the excellent choir and orchestra of the armed forces. May the blessed Virgin Mary sustain the search operations underway. In 2004, the choir performed in the Vatican for the 26th year of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II. Let us pray for them.”
The Pope concluded the Angelus by reminding the church to keep him in prayer. You may watch the full Angelus in the video player above.
[Featured Image by Gregorio Borgia/AP]