VATICAN CITY — The martyrdom of many Christians “with the complicit silence of many powers that could stop it”, was denounced by Pope Francis during his homily after presiding on Monday over a morning mass at the Vatican’s St. Martha chapel attended by the top Armenian Catholic clergymen, including the recently elected Patriarch Gregory Peter XX.

The Pope recalled, “One of many great persecutions: that of the Armenian people”: “The first nation to convert to Christianity: the first. They were persecuted just for being Christians,” he said. “The Armenian people were persecuted, chased away from their homeland, helpless, in the desert,” he added in a clear reference to the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire that killed 1.5 million.

“Today,” the Pope continued, “I would like, on this day of our first Eucharist, as brother Bishops, dear brother Bishops and Patriarch and all of you Armenian faithful and priests, to embrace you and remember this persecution that you have suffered, and to remember your holy ones, your many saints who died of hunger, in the cold, under torture, [cast] into the wilderness only for being Christians.”

“We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus,” he said.

“We do not know what will happen here. Only let the Lord give us the grace, should this persecution happen here one day, of the courage and the witness that all Christian martyrs have shown, and especially the Christians of the Armenian people,” concluded the pontiff.

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