“Persecutions are not a reality of the past, for today too we experience them, whether by the shedding of blood, as is the case with so many contemporary martyrs, or by more subtle means, by slander and lies.”   His Holiness Pope Francis made the point in a letter to His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in reference to the December 8 beatification of 19 religious men and women martyred in Algeria.

As reported by Vatican news, “At other times, persecution can take the form of gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous,” the Pontiff wrote to the cardinal who will preside over the beatification ceremony on his behalf at the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Santa Cruz in Oran, Algeria, on December 8.In the letter in Latin, the Pontiff said that Jesus, the Son of God who was without fault suffered persecution and a cruel death on the cross, had told his disciples: “A servant is no greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you”.  The Pontiff said that the Church has always had a special devotion to the martyrs who witnessed to their faith and love for Jesus, even to the shedding of blood, trusting in the words of the Lord: “I have been given every power in heaven and on earth. Behold, I am with you every day, until the end of the world.”

The Pontiff concluded his letter saying these martyrs have forgiven their killers, showing that they love eternal life more, and now “they possess what they loved, and they will possess it even more fully at the resurrection of the dead”. Dominican Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran and 18 religious men and women from France, Spain, Tunisia and Belgium were killed in the predominantly Muslim nation between 1991 and 2002 under various circumstances during the conflict between the Islamists and the military.  Among them are 7 Trappist monks of Tibhirine murdered in 1996. Six of the 19 are women religious.