Pope Francis on Thursday underscored the enduring power of martyrdom and emphasized the communal nature of holiness at a Vatican-run conference on ‘The Communal Dimension of Sanctity’.
The pontiff highlighted Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Catholic woman who faced persecution for her faith, as a striking example of “continuous martyrdom.”
“When God calls an individual, it is always for the good of all,” said Pope Francis adding that there is an inherent connection between personal vocation and the well-being of the community.
Discussing the concept of martyrdom, he described it as a “powerful model” of saintliness, citing numerous historical examples within the Church.
“There is no period which has been devoid of martyrs, including our own day,” said Pope Francis, challenging the perception that martyrs are a relic of the past.
He highlighted Asia Bibi’s case, a Pakistani Catholic who spent years in prison under a death sentence for blasphemy before being released and relocating to Canada.
“Nearly nine years of Christian witness!” Pope Francis exclaimed, commending Asia Bibi’s steadfastness in the face of adversity.
He urged recognition of the many individuals like her who bear witness to faith and charity through their personal ordeals.
Pope Francis stressed that holiness is primarily fulfilled in charity and serves as a communal event, uniting believers.
He drew parallels to biblical figures such as Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul, whose individual calls from God contributed to the greater good of the community.
The Pope then shifted his focus to familial sanctity, acknowledging the exemplariness of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
He discussed the significance of holy couples within the Church, where each spouse becomes an instrument of salvation for the other.
Pope Francis cited the Polish couple Josef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children, who sacrificed their lives attempting to save Jewish families from the Nazis.
“This Polish family reminds us that sanctification is a community journey, to be made in pairs, not alone. Always in community,” Pope Francis asserted, underscoring the interconnectedness of holiness within the family unit.