Vatican City, Mar 2, 2017 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his prayer video for March, Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christians, asking for the prayers and aid of the whole Church toward those mistreated on the basis of their beliefs.
“How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!” the Pope says in the video.
Released March 2, the video shows people from different countries being photographed as if arrested, then holding up signs reading “Protestant,” “Catholic,” and “Orthodox.”
“They are persecuted and killed because they are Christians,” the Pope says. “Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong.”
The video continues with real footage of destroyed churches in the Middle East, followed by clips of adults and children praying in a church, at home, and at a school, and people packing up food at a food bank, as the Pope asks: “how many of you pray for persecuted Christians?”
“Do it with me, that they may be supported by the prayers and material help of all the Churches and communities.”
An initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and mark the first time the Roman Pontiff’s monthly prayer intentions have been featured on video.
The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.
Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.
Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.
According to a report released in January, global persecution of Christians has risen for the fourth year in a row and is on a “rapid rise” in Asia.
The advocacy group Open Doors UK warned in its annual report on Christian persecution, released Jan. 12, that “Persecution levels have been rising rapidly across Asia and the Indian subcontinent, driven by extreme religious nationalism which is often tacitly condoned, and sometimes actively encouraged, by local and national governments.”
Overall persecution of Christians has risen from last year, Open Doors UK noted, stating that “Christians are being killed for their faith in more countries than before.”
“Christians living in these countries need the support of their family, the body of Christ, to help them stand firm in their faith,” they stated.