Pope Francis recalls Coptic Christian Martyrs in Libya whose last words were "Jesus, Jesus" and says the Holy Spirit was with them


St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles: 8. "Do not happen to find yourself even fighting against God" (Acts 5:39). The criteria of discernment proposed by the essay Gamaliel.

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. Faced with the prohibition of the Jews to teach in the name of Christ, Peter and the Apostles respond with courage that they cannot obey those who want to stop the journey of the Gospel in the world.

The Twelve thus show that they possess that "obedience of faith" which they will then want to arouse in all men (see Rom 1.5). Starting from Pentecost, in fact, they are no longer "alone" men. They experience that special synergy that makes them decentralize themselves and has them say: "we and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:32) or "the Holy Spirit and us" (Acts 15:28). They feel that they cannot say "I" alone, they are men decentralized by themselves. Strengthened by this covenant, the Apostles do not let themselves be intimidated by anyone. They had an impressive courage! We think these were cowards: they all ran away, they ran away when Jesus was arrested. But, from cowards they have become so brave. Why? Because it was the Holy Spirit with them. The same happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit inside, we will have the courage to move forward, the courage to win many struggles, not for ourselves but for the Spirit that is with us. They do not retreat into their march as intrepid witnesses of the Risen Jesus, like the martyrs of all times, including ours. Martyrs give their lives, they do not hide that they are Christians. We think, a few years ago - even today there are many - but we think four years ago, those Coptic Orthodox Christians, real workers, on the beach of Libya: all have been slaughtered. But the last word they said was "Jesus, Jesus". They had not sold off the faith, because there was the Holy Spirit with them. These are the martyrs of today! The Apostles are the "megaphones" of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Risen One to promptly and without hesitation spread the Word that gives salvation.

And indeed, this determination makes the Jewish "religious system" tremble, which feels threatened and responds with violence and death sentences. The persecution of Christians is always the same: people who do not want Christianity feel threatened and thus bring death to Christians. But, in the midst of the Sanhedrin, the different voice of a Pharisee rises who chooses to stem the reaction of his own: his name was Gamaliel, a prudent man, "doctor of the Law, esteemed by all the people". At his school St. Paul learned to observe "the law of the fathers" (see Acts 22: 3). Gamaliele takes the floor and shows his brothers how to exercise the art of discernment in the face of situations that go beyond the usual patterns.

He shows, citing some characters who had passed off as Messiah, that every human project can first receive acclaim and then be shipwrecked, while everything that comes from above and carries the "signature" of God is destined to last. Human projects always fail; they have a time, like us. Think of so many political projects, and how they change from one side to the other, in all countries. Think of the great empires, think of the dictatorships of the last century: they felt very powerful, they thought they dominated the world. And then they all collapsed. Even today, think of today's empires: they will collapse, if God is not with them, because the strength that men have in themselves is not lasting. Only the strength of God endures. Let us think of the history of Christians, including the history of the Church, with so many sins, with so many scandals, with so many bad things in these two millennia. And why didn't it collapse? Because God is there. We are sinners, and even so often we give scandal. But God is with us. And God saves us first, and then them; but always save, the Lord. Strength is "God with us". Gamaliel demonstrates, quoting some characters who had passed off as Messiah, that every human project can first receive acclaim and then be shipwrecked. Therefore, Gamaliele concludes that, if the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth believed an impostor, they are destined to disappear into thin air; if instead they follow one who comes from God, it is better to give up fighting them; and warns: "Do not happen to find yourself even fighting against God" (Acts 5:39). It teaches us to make this discernment.

They are calm and far-sighted words, which allow us to see the Christian event with a new light and offer criteria that "know of the Gospel", because they invite us to recognize the tree from its fruits (see Mt 7:16). They touch hearts and achieve the desired effect: the other members of the Sanhedrin follow his opinion and renounce the intentions of death, that is to kill the Apostles.
We ask the Holy Spirit to act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habit of discernment. Let us ask him to always be able to see the unity of the history of salvation through the signs of the passage of God in our time and on the faces of those around us, because we learn that time and human faces are messengers of the living God.

Greetings in Various Languages:
Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française, en particulier les pèlerins du diocèse de Blois. Frères et sœurs, demandons à Dieu la grâce du discernement sur les évènements, parfois obscurs, de nos vies et du monde. La volonté de Dieu s’exprime dans la durée. Sachons, avant de juger ou de nous décourager, attendre avec patience que l’Esprit Saint fasse porter du fruit à nos projets, dans la mesure où ils viennent de lui. Que Dieu vous bénisse!
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America. In particular, I greet the members of the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons present in Rome for their annual meeting. Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!
Ein herzliches Willkommen den Pilgern deutscher Sprache. Ich grüße die verschiedenen Schülergruppen, insbesondere die Cäcilienschule Wilhelmshafen und die Gerhardinger Realschule Cham sowie die Gemeinschaft des interdiözesanen Priesterseminars Leopoldinum Heiligenkreuz. Bitten wir den Heiligen Geist um die Gabe der Unterscheidung, die uns die Zeichen der Gegenwart Gottes in der Welt von heute erkennen lässt.
[A cordial welcome to German-speaking pilgrims. I greet the various groups of students, in particular those from the Cäcilienschule Wilhelmshafen and the Gerhardinger Realschule Cham, as well as the community of the Interdiocesan Seminary Leopoldinum Heiligenkreuz. We ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of discernment that allows us to recognize the signs of God's presence in today's world.]
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española. En particular saludo al Pontificio Colegio Mexicano en Roma, y a los sacerdotes de la Arquidiócesis de Guadalajara, que celebran su 25 aniversario de sacerdocio. Pidamos al Espíritu Santo que nos ayude a saber descubrir a Dios en los acontecimientos y en las personas que nos rodean. Que Dios los bendiga.
Com cordial afeto, saúdo todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, em especial os grupos de Fernandópolis, da diocese de Friburgo e da paróquia de São Pedro da Cova. O Senhor vos abençoe, para serdes em toda a parte farol de luz do Evangelho para todos. Possa esta peregrinação fortalecer nos vossos corações o sentir e o viver com a Igreja. Nossa Senhora acompanhe e proteja a vós todos e aos vossos entes queridos.
أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ منالشرق الأوسط. أيها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزاء، إن التمييز الحقيقي يتطلّب منا أن نربّيَ أنفسنا على صبر الله وأوقاته التي ليست أوقاتنا، لنعزّز البحث عن معايير التمييز الشخصيّة والجماعية الضرورية لكي نبلغ معرفة مشيئة الله التي نجد فيها ملء الحياة. ليبارككم الرب!
[I warmly welcome the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, especially those from the Middle East! Dear brothers and sisters, authentic discernment requires educating oneself to the patience of God and to his times, which are not ours, we try to favor the search for personal and community discernment criteria, necessary to reach the knowledge of God's will, in which every fullness of life resides. The Lord bless you!]
Witam serdecznie obecnych tu Polaków. Dzisiaj w liturgii Kościoła w Polsce przypada święto patrona dzieci i młodzieży, świętego Stanisława Kostki. Ten młody chłopiec pokonał pieszo drogę z Wiednia do Rzymu, by zostać jezuitą. Pokazał, że koniecznie trzeba poświęcić wiele, by pójść za głosem własnego powołania. Jest wzorem także dla tych młodych, którzy z obawy przed reakcją rodziny, przyjaciół lub innych ludzi, boją się wybrać drogę powołania kapłańskiego lub zakonnego. Drodzy młodzi, nie lękajcie się iść za głosem Chrystusa! Niech Bóg błogosławi wam i wszystkim tu obecnym.
[I cordially greet the Poles here present. Today in the liturgy of the Church in Poland falls the feast of the patron saint of children and young people, St. Stanislaus Kostka. That boy from Vienna, walked to Rome to become a Jesuit. He thus demonstrated that it is necessary to sacrifice so much to follow the voice of one's vocation. It is also an example for those young people who, fearing the reaction of their family members, friends or others, are afraid to choose the vocational path to the priesthood or religious life. Dear young people, do not be afraid to follow the voice of Christ! God bless you and everyone present here.]


Next September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day, a disease that affects many men and women who, because of this disease, are often victims of violence, abuse and abuse that trample their dignity. We pray for the conversion of hearts and for those affected by Alzheimer's disease, for their families and for those who lovingly care for them. I also associate with prayer, the memory of those suffering from cancer, so that they are also increasingly supported, both in the prevention and treatment of this disease.

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I warmly welcome the Italian-speaking pilgrims.

I am pleased to welcome the Religious, Religious and participants in the refresher course on Canon Law of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

I greet the National Sacerdoti Italia Calcio team; the parishes, in particular those of the Saints Prosdocimo and Donato in Cittadella and of Santa Lucia in Palermo; the Comboni Association of migrant and refugee services; the Italian Federation of Dog Crafts; and the members of the Road Safety Education Campaign.

I am particularly interested in young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Next Saturday is the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Imitate his willingness to readily follow Jesus. He was attached to money and sold his homeland for money! The Lord called him and he left all the money to follow Jesus. His conversion is an example for everyone, so that like him we can live as true disciples of the Lord, able to abandon the calculations of the world.
FULL TEXT + Image Source: Shared from www.vatican.va - Unofficial Translation from Italian