By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ – Vatican News –
Pope Francis recalls the faithful witness of 21 Christians – 20 Egyptian Orthodox Copts and 1 Ghanaian – who were killed by Islamist extremists in 2015 in Libya.
Pope Francis sent a video message on Monday on the sixth anniversary of the death of 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians killed in Libya by the so-called Islamic State.
“Today is the day I have in my heart, that February of 2015,” the Pope said. “I hold in my heart that baptism of blood, those twenty-one men baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood.”
“They are our Saints, Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions,” the Pope affirmed. “They are those who have blanched their lives in the blood of the Lamb, they are those… of the people of God, the faithful people of God.”
The occasion was commemorated virtually on Friday in an online event, which saw the attendance of Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II. The Primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, was also present, along with several other dignitaries.
Ordinary men, witnesses to Jesus
Speaking further on the testimony of their lives, Pope Francis explained that those 21 Christians who “bore witness to Jesus Christ” were “ordinary men” who went abroad to support their families.
“Ordinary men, fathers of families, men with the desire to have children; men with the dignity of workers, who not only seek to bring home bread, but to bring it home with the dignity of work.”
“Their throats slit by the brutality of ISIS, they died saying, ‘Lord Jesus!’, confessing the name of Jesus,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis pointed out that, even though their deaths on the beach in Sirte was a tragedy, that beach was “blessed by their blood”. He added that it is even more true that “from their simplicity, from their simple but consistent faith, they received the greatest gift a Christian can receive: bearing witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving their life.”
Gratitude to God, church and family
Expressing gratitude to God for the gift of these “courageous brothers”, the Pope thanked the Holy Spirit for giving them the “strength and the consistency” to confess Jesus even to the point of shedding their blood.
The Pope also acknowledged the bishops and priests of the Coptic Church who “raised them and taught them to grow in the faith.”
Turning his attention to their mothers, the Pope expressed thanks for their role in nursing them in the faith: “They are the mothers of God’s holy people who transmit the faith ‘in dialect’,” Pope Francis said. “A dialect that goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging.”
Pope Francis went on to express his closeness to the participants at the online occasion, greeting in particular, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, and all other bishops and priests.
“I join the holy faithful people of God who in their simplicity, with their consistency and inconsistencies, with their graces and sins, carry forth the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Lastly, Pope Francis reiterated his gratitude to the 21 Christians for their witness, and thanked the Lord for His closeness to his people.
Concluding, the Holy Father encouraged all to pray, on this anniversary of the deaths of the Coptic Orthodox Christians, that they might intercede for us all before God
Photo Credit: Reuters