Compare the New Zealand Stuff article from Reuters with the much more comprehensive AsiaNews.it. Pope Francis was talking about Saint Stephen's martyrdom, celebrated by the Church as a Feast Day on the day after Christmas. The day we more commonly refer to as Boxing Day, or the day when everyone goes to the shops to get really good sales items.
The Stuff article connects Pope Francis' words to what is occurring in Islamic countries with regards to religious freedom. However, religious freedom is also under attack in Western countries, those that "protect freedom and human rights on paper". From the Stuff article:
Francis did not name any countries but the Vatican has long urged Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam's holiest places, to lift a ban on Christians worshiping in public.In my opinion, if you read carefully what the Pope is saying, he's not referring to just those crazy Muslim places. From the AsiaNews.it article, much more of his exact words:
This year there have been a number of incidents of intolerance and attacks against minority Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and other countries where their rights are guaranteed by law.
For the pope, Saint Stephen's martyrdom is the reason why "we are praying today especially for Christians who suffer discrimination because of their witness to Christ and the Gospel."
"We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like Saint Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds. This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realised. In my opinion, there are more today than in the early days of the Church. As it happens however, even in countries and places that protect freedom and human rights on the paper, believers, especially Christians, encounter limitations or discrimination."
Countries that protect freedom and human rights on paper could easily mean countries such as Britain and the United States, there have been clashes between the right to freedom of religion and the new right to not be discrimated against if a person wants to call themselves married to a person of the same sex and all that leads to. Such as Catholic adoption agencies having had to close because they won't adopt children to same-sex couples. Where choosing not to make a cake for a same-sex marriage will get you sued.
Then there's the increasing pressure by Muslims and atheists against Christian symbols and holidays, such as the wearing of a cross in Europe. In America, saying the word Christmas during the Christmas season is not allowed in some places, which then means Christmas carols can't be sung and children's handmade Christmas cards can't be given out. And then there's the ACLU trying to get the 10 Commandments removed from state monuments.
Etc, etc, etc ...
The Pope continues:
"For these brothers and sisters, I would ask you to pray, for a moment, in silence, everyone," the pope said off the cuff. After a brief moment of silence, he continued, saying, "Let us entrust them to Mary," and called on everyone to say a Hail Mary for them.I started this post off with the intention to just highlighting a couple of the many tabs that I have open on my desktop at any one time that all be turned into a blog post. However, I can't always seem to be able to just do an off the cuff post, no matter how hard I try, I often have to make sense of it.
"For Christians," he added, "this is not surprising because Jesus foretold it as an opportunity to bear witness. Nevertheless, injustice must be legally reported and eliminated."
"May Mary Queen of Martyrs help us experience Christmas with the ardour of faith and love that shines in Saint Stephen and all the martyrs of the Church," the pope said in concluding.
So, I will finish off with some snippets of a post by Tim Stanley. He's writing about the media creating this fictional Pope Francis, and it's that fictional Pope Francis who got named Time Magazine's Man of the Year. Again, this is why it's vitally important, if you are a person who is interested in news about the Pope to read better news sources than the secular ones for a more complete picture of Francis, because he's not who the media thinks he is.
There are two Popes. One is Francis as he actually is: spiritual shepherd of the Catholic faithful, the man chosen to defend and articulate the beliefs of the Church. The other is Francis as the liberal establishment would have him be: a crusading humanist on the verge of making the Catholic Church socially acceptable at Manhattan dinner parties. Guess which Pope Francis Time Magazine just made Man of the Year?Related link: Time Magazine's Man of the Year is Pope Francis. Alas, it's not the real Pope Francis ~ Tim Stanley, The Telegraph
The Catholic writer Billy Newton has done a great run down of why Time's Pope is not the real Pope, with two killer observations. First, the magazine calls him The People's Pope – as if a pontiff could be anything else, or as if all those that came before him were distant aristos who ate the poor for breakfast. Second, Time is obsessed with sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sexy sex. Will the Pope embrace homosexuality? Will he make it a little less wrong to have an abortion? Will he distribute prophylacticos to the masses of Rio, flinging them from his Pope-copter like confetti on a parade? Or, at the very least, will he stop talking about sex and leave Catholics to run their own sex lives in peace?
The Time piece misunderstands Francis and his job description. It trawls through the details of his biography and mines every little ambiguous thing he's ever said because it presumes that the Church is an extension of the will of one man. It is not. It is, according to Catholic doctrine, the mystical body of Christ. It is the Way, the Truth and the Life as discovered through revelation, scripture and tradition. It is not guided exclusively by a man but by the Holy Spirit. It cannot err, change its mind or bend according to fashion because it is a divine instrument and God doesn't change his mind. Sorry if all this language seems a bit religous-y, but we are talking about a Church here – not a political party or a corporation. As such, it can't be reduced to biography.