WORLDWIDE – Pope dedicates March prayer intention to new Christian martyrs

ROME – During the month of March, Pope Francis has asked believers to pray for Christians around the world who may face death for making the sign of the cross, reading the Bible, going to Mass on Sunday, or generally expressing their faith in public.

“It might be hard for us to believe, but there are more martyrs today than in the first centuries,” Francis says in this month’s edition of “The Pope Video.”

Christians are being killed he says, because “they speak the truth and proclaim Jesus Christ,” risking oppression and physical harm even “in countries where, in theory and on paper, they protect freedom and human rights.”

According to the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need, the fundamental human right of religious freedom is gravely threatened in 38 countries.

“In many places around the world, religious freedom isn’t an idea; it’s a question of survival,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN. “It’s not about whether you feel more or less comfortable with the ideological foundations underlying religious freedom; it’s about how to avoid a bloodbath!”