Pope Francis has called on believers to be courageous and joyful evangelizers even in the face of persecution, referencing the Acts of the Apostles to remind Catholics that the word of God cannot be trammeled.
During his general audience on Jan. 15, the pope said that a true apostle would remain steadfast even when facing persecution and certain death to serve as an example to others, the Catholic News Service reports.
The pope said that St. Luke had decided to close the Acts of the Apostles not with the martyrdom of St. Paul, but the first-century apostle’s continued evangelization even while under house arrest, to show that the word of God cannot be “enchained.”
“This house open to all hearts is the image of the Church which — although persecuted, misunderstood and chained — never tires of welcoming with a motherly heart every man and woman to proclaim to them the love of the Father who made himself visible in Jesus,” Pope Francis said.
The pope further expanded that even when St. Paul traveled to “the heart of the empire,” he did not dilute his message but strengthened it in order to demonstrate “that the direction of events does not belong to men but to the Holy Spirit, who gives fruitfulness to the church’s missionary action.”
He said that even while imprisoned, St. Paul would continue to meet with prominent Jews to show “the fulfillment of the promises made to the chosen people” through the death and resurrection of Christ.
The pope added that while not everyone believes the Gospel shared by St. Paul, he was steadfast in welcoming anyone who wanted to hear the Good News.
St. Paul is believed to have been executed in Rome under the order of Emperor Nero sometime between 64-67 AD.
May the Lord “enable us, like Paul, to imbue our houses with the Gospel and to make them cenacles of fraternity, where we can welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every person and in every age,” Pope Francis said.
The general audience, also known as the papal audience, is not a Mass, but rather provides an opportunity for the pope to deliver a themed speech, followed by prayer, homily and songs.
Pope Francis often communicates with the crowd in multiple languages during these addresses.