15-January-2014 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Pope Expresses Solidarity With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Encourages Them to Follow Example of 17th Century Church in Japan

VATICAN CITY, January 15, 2014 (Zenit.org) - During his General Audience, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with Christians in the Middle East who are facing persecution.

The Holy Father, who continued his catechesis on the Sacrament of Baptism, reflected on the Church in Japan in the 17th century, where thousands were killed or exiled for the faith.

"After close to two and a half centuries, 250 years later, the missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians came out into the open and the Church was able to flower again. They survived with the grace of their Baptism!," the Pope said.

When greeting the Arab-speaking faithful, Pope Francis encouraged them to follow the example of the Church in Japan in carrying the "flame of faith."

"When difficulties and persecutions are lived with confidence, trust and hope, they purify and strengthen the faith," he said.

"Be true witnesses of Christ and of his Gospel, authentic children of the Church, always ready to give reason for your hope, with love and respect. May the Lord guard your life and bless you!" (J.A.E.)

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