By Francesca Merlo

Feb 28 2024

Pope Francis releases his prayer intention for March, asking for prayers for the martyrs of our day, and recalling a story he was told by a widowed Muslim man who recounted the martyrdom of his Christian wife as she defied terrorists.

“For the martyrs of our day, witnesses to Christ”. In the new release from The Pope Video, Pope Francis requests prayers for the new martyrs of our day so that they might “imbue the Church with their courage and missionary drive.”

Introducing his prayer intention for the month of March, Pope Francis decides to share a story which he says “is a reflection of the Church today” and one that is “the story of a little-known witness of faith”.

He recalls the story of a widowed man whom he met when he visited a refugee camp in Lesbos. The man, a Muslim, recounted the harrowing story of how his wife, who was Christian, was asked by terrorists to throw a crucifix to the ground. “She didn’t do it, and they slit her throat in front of me”, the man told the Pope.

Pope Francis notes that this man “held no grudges”, and was instead “focused on his wife’s example of love, a love for Christ that led her to accept, and to be faithful to the point of death”.

The Holy Father emphasises that there will always be martyrs among us and that “this is a sign that we are on the right path” as the courage and witness of the martyrs, “is a blessing for everyone”. The Pope continues, “I have been told that there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity.”

Thus, Pope Francis invites all the faithful to pray for those who risk their lives for the Gospel, all over the world, so that they “might imbue the Church with their courage and missionary drive, and be open to the grace of martyrdom”. 

Silent martyrs

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network created this month’s video in collaboration with Aid To the Church In Need (ACN), a Papal Foundation whose mission is to help the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer and action.

In the video, the story of the Christian lady who died refusing to throw the crucifix on the ground alternates with other images of Christian communities on pilgrimage and cites examples of courage, such as that of the first Servant of God from Pakistan – Akash Bashir – who died almost 20 years ago in 2015 to prevent a terrorist attack on a Church in Lahore filled with members of the faithful.

In its press release accompanying this month’s prayer intention, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network notes that in 2023 alone, ACN received reports in 40 countries of people who were assassinated or abducted because of their faith. Nigeria has become the country with the highest number of assassinations; in Pakistan, in the diocese of Faisalabad, the churches and homes of the Christians in Jaranwala were attacked; and in Burkina Faso, Catholics in Débé were expelled from their village solely because of their faith. – Vatican News