Pope Francis continues his series of catecheses on apostolic zeal and speaks of the Church’s many martyrs, praying especially for those working in Yemen, dominated by war for so many years.

Addressing the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on apostolic zeal, and turned to the figure of St Paul, describing him as “a true ‘champion’ of apostolic zeal”.

Referring to the day’s reading, the Pope noted that, “today our gaze turns not to a single figure, but to the host of martyrs, men and women of every age, language and nation who gave their lives for Christ.”

Martyrs, fruits of the Lord’s vineyard

Speaking of martyrs, Pope Francis stressed that they should not be seen as ‘heroes’ who acted individually, but rather “as mature and excellent fruits of the Lord’s vineyard,” the Church.

Pope Francis added that Christians, in participating in the celebration of the Eucharist, “were led by the Spirit to set their lives on the basis of that mystery of love,” which is that the Lord Jesus had given His life for them, and therefore they too could and should give their lives for Him and for their brothers and sisters.

The Pope then asked that we “remember all the martyrs who have accompanied the life of the Church.” He explained that Christian martyrs are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries, and recalled that the Second Vatican Council “reminds us that ‘martyrdom, by which the disciple is made like his master who freely accepts death for the sake of the world, and by which he becomes like Him in the shedding of blood, is esteemed by the Church as a distinguished gift and a supreme proof of charity’.”

Years of war in Yemen

Bringing his catechesis to an end, Pope Francis shed light on the Christian witnesses present all over the world, and in a particular way brings everyone’s attention to Yemen, “a land that has been wounded for many years by a terrible, forgotten war, which has caused so many deaths and still causes so many people to suffer, especially children.”

A shining example of self-giving by those serving Christ in that suffering nation, continued the Pope, is that of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, who “even today they are still present in Yemen, where they offer assistance to the sick elderly and people with disabilities.”

They, the Pope said, welcome everyone, of whatever religion, “because charity and fraternity have no boundaries. One must never kill in the name of God, because for Him we are all brothers and sisters. But together we can give our lives for others.”

May we never grow weary

Finally, the Pope asked that we pray, “that we will not grow weary in bearing witness to the Gospel even in times of tribulation” and that “all the saints and holy martyrs be seeds of peace and reconciliation between peoples for a more human and fraternal world, while waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven to be fully manifested, when God will be all in all.”