Pope Francis I Prays for Persecuted Christians

In his most recent Sunday sermon, Pope Francis addressed the topic of the persecuted church, a gesture which suggests that perhaps the new pontiff will focus part of his holy career on helping the millions of persecuted Christians throughout the world.

"Let us pray especially for Christians who suffer persecution," he said during his sermon on the third Sunday of Easter at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy, in front of a crowd of nearly 80,000 Christians.

The pope then proceeded to draw a comparison between the persecution Jesus' apostles endured to the persecution of modern-day Christians.

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"[The apostles'] faith was based on so powerful and personal an experience of Christ crucified and risen, that they were not afraid of anything or anyone, and even saw their persecution as a badge of honor, that made them capable of following in the footsteps of Jesus and to be like Him, bearing witness with their lives," the pope said.

"… and in these times, there are many Christians who suffer persecution, a great many, in many countries: let us pray for them from our heart, with love, that they might feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord."

The pope also dedicated Sunday's sermon to discussing the credibility of the Christian church, which he says is under attack due to hypocrisy among Christians and pastors alike.

"Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one's life," he told the crowd on Sunday, as previously reported by The Christian Post.

"Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!"

Since his election as pope on March 13, Pope Francis has gained international recognition as a Catholic leader expressing unconventional acts of humility and focusing primarily on helping the lowliest in society.

Pope Francis has washed the feet of AIDS victims and cancer patients, and has forgone many of the luxuries associated with papacy – choosing to stay in a simple apartment instead of living in the Apostolic Palace during his time as the leader of the Catholic church.

The pope's recent statements regarding religious persecution provide many Christians with a sense of hope for the new religious leader and his priorities in helping those who suffer for their faith.

Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his resignation as pope in February, also worked to bring awareness to persecuted Christians in the world.

"Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith," Pope Benedict said in his 2010 message for World Peace Day.

Prominent Christians, such as television producer Roma Downey, recently described Pope Francis as a new "hope" for Christians in that he has a "servant's heart."

"People are reconnecting. People are being inspired by his leadership and his humility, by the tenderness with which he's approached his office, and the choices he's made so far," Downey said in a joint interview with her producer husband Mark Burnett, who created the hit "The Bible" miniseries, in an April Zap2It article.

 According to International Christian Concern, 200 million Christians across the world suffer persecution due to their faith.

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