2015-04-21 L’Osservatore Romano - In a message sent to H.H. Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church,

Pope Francis expressed “consternation and sorrow” for the countless events of “shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya”, following the dissemination of a video which showed the barbaric killing of 28 Ethiopian Coptic Christians.

“I know that your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind, in view of your faithful, killed for the sole reason of being followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I address my heartfelt spiritual solidarity to you, to assure you of my closeness in prayer amid the ongoing martyrdom being inflicted in so cruel a manner upon Christians in Africa, in the Middle East and in some regions of Asia”, Francis wrote.

“It makes no difference”, he continued, “whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to make itself heard by all those who still know how to distinguish between good and evil”. And this cry, he added, “must be heard above all by those who hold the fate of the peoples in their hands”

Recalling that “in this period we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women hastened to proclaim that “Christ has risen from the dead”, the Pontiff acknowledged that “this year, our joy, which never fails, is eclipsed by profound sadness”. Yet, he affirmed “we know that the life we live in the merciful love of God is stronger than the sorrow that all Christians are feeling, a sorrow shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

During the Mass celebrated at Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, 21 April, Pope Francisrepeated that “today the Church is the Church of martyrs”, addressing a thought to “the Ethiopians assassinated for being Christians” and to all believers who in various parts of the world are victims of violence and persecution. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches also spoke of “martyrs”, condemning themost recent event of chilling jihadist violence.