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Stephen "full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5, 39)

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Acts of the Apostles (9)
General Audience, Wednesday 25 September 2019 - also in Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
With the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we shall continue to follow a journey: the journey of the Gospel in the world. With great realism, Saint Luke illustrates both the fruitfulness of this journey, and the onset of problems within the Christian community. From the very beginning there were always problems. How can we harmonize the differences that coexist within it without the occurrence of conflict and schisms?

The community not only welcomed the Hebrews, but also the Greeks, that is, people from the diaspora, non-Jews, with their own culture and sensitivities and with another religion. Today we call them “gentiles”. And they were welcomed. This shared presence brought with it a fragile and precarious balance: and before these difficulties, “weeds” begin to appear, and which is the worst weed that destroys a community? The weed of discontent, the weeds of gossip: the Greeks complain about the community’s lack of attention to their widows.

The Apostles begin a process of discernment which consists in recognizing all the difficulties and trying to find solutions together. They find a way out by dividing the various tasks, for the peaceful growth of the entire ecclesial body, and in order to avoid neglecting either the “course” of the Gospel or caring for the poorest members.

The Apostles are ever more aware that their main vocation is to pray and preach the Word of God: to pray and proclaim the Gospel: and they resolve the issue by establishing a nucleus of “seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (Acts 6:3), who, after receiving the laying on of hands, will “serve tables”. It refers to the deacons who were created for this, for service. In the Church a deacon is not a deputy priest, but something else. He is not for the altar but for service. He is the custodian of service in the Church. When a deacon is too fond of going to the altar, he is making a mistake. This is not his path. This harmony between service to the Word and service to charity represents the leaven that makes the ecclesial body grow.

And the Apostles create the seven deacons and among the seven “deacons”, Stephen and Philip in particular stand out. Stephen evangelizes with strength and parresia, but his word meets the most obstinate resistance. Not finding any other way to stop him, what do his opponents do? They choose the most paltry solution to annihilate a human being: that is, slander or false witness. And we know that slander always kills. This “diabolical cancer” that arises from the desire to destroy the reputation of a person, also attacks the ecclesial body and seriously damages it, when as a result of malicious interests or to cover up one’s own inadequacies, people unite to denigrate someone.

Brought to the Sanhedrin and accused by false witnesses — they had done the same to Jesus and they will do the same to all the martyrs through false testimonies and slander — Stephen proclaims a re-reading of the sacred story centred on Christ, to defend himself. And the Paschal mystery of Jesus dead and Risen is the key to the entire story of the Covenant. Imbued with this overabundance of the Divine Gift, Stephen courageously denounces the hypocrisy with which the prophets and Christ himself had been treated. And he reminds them of the story, saying: “Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered” (Acts 7, 52). He does not mince his words, but rather speaks with clarity; he speaks the truth.

This stirs a violent reaction in the audience and Stephen is condemned to death, condemned to be stoned. However, he manifests the true “fabric” of a disciple of Christ. He does not seek shortcuts, he does not appeal to important people who could save him, but rather places his life in the hands of the Lord, and Stephen’s prayer is very beautiful at that moment: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7, 59) — and he dies as a son of God, forgiving: “Lord do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7, 60).

These words of Stephen teach us that it is not beautiful speeches that reveal our identity as children of God, but that only by surrendering one’s life into the hands of the Father and forgiving those who offend us can the quality of our faith be shown.

There are more martyrs today than there were at the beginning of the life of the Church, and martyrs are everywhere. Today the Church is rich in martyrs, it is steeped in their blood: “The blood of Christians is seed” (Tertullian, Apology, 50:13) and ensures the growth and fruitfulness of the People of God. Martyrs are not just “saintly”, but rather men and women in flesh and blood who — as Revelation says — “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). They are the true victors.

Let us also ask the Lord today that by looking to the martyrs of yesterday and today, we can learn to live a full life, welcoming the martyrdom of everyday faithfulness to the Gospel and conforming to Christ."


"Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française, en particulier les pèlerins du diocèse de Tournai, accompagnés de leur Evêque Monseigneur Guy Harpigny. Etienne nous enseigne que ce ne sont pas les beaux discours qui révèlent notre identité de fils de Dieu, mais l’abandon de notre vie dans les mains du Père et le pardon des offenses. Demandons au Seigneur de pouvoir apprendre à vivre une vie pleine, acceptant le martyre de la fidélité quotidienne à l’Evangile et la configuration au Christ. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

[Saluto cordialmente i francofoni, in particolare i pellegrini della diocesi di Tournai, accompagnati dal loro Vescovo, Monsignor Guy Harpigny. Stefano ci insegna che non sono i bei discorsi a rivelare la nostra identità di figli di Dio, ma l'abbandono della nostra vita nelle mani del Padre e il perdono delle offese ricevute. Chiediamo al Signore di imparare a vivere una vita piena, accettando il martirio della fedeltà quotidiana al Vangelo e la configurazione a Cristo. Dio vi benedica!]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from England, Scotland, Denmark, Malta, Norway, Kenya, Australia, Mariana Islands, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the United States of America. In a particular way my greeting goes to the new seminarians of the Venerable English College as they begin their priestly formation here in Rome. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!

[Saluto i pellegrini di lingua inglese presenti all’odierna Udienza, specialmente i gruppi provenienti da Inghilterra, Scozia, Danimarca, Malta, Norvegia, Kenya, Australia, Isole Marianne, Cina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka e Stati Uniti d’America. In particolare saluto i nuovi seminaristi del Venerabile Collegio Inglese all’inizio della loro formazione sacerdotale qui a Roma. Su tutti voi e sulle vostre famiglie invoco la gioia e la pace del Signore nostro Gesù Cristo. Dio vi benedica!]

Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Bitten wir darum, dass wir nach dem Vorbild des heiligen Stephanus durch unser Zeugnis des Glaubens und der Liebe den Menschen die Schönheit des Antlitzes Christi aufstrahlen lassen können.

[Saluto di cuore i pellegrini provenienti dai paesi di lingua tedesca. Preghiamo perché, seguendo l’esempio di Santo Stefano, possiamo far risplendere agli uomini, tramite la nostra testimonianza di fede e di carità, la bellezza del volto di Cristo.]

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España y Latinoamérica. Saludo a los miembros de Renova presentes en Roma durante esta semana para presentar sus trabajos en los Dicasterios. Pidamos de forma constante la fuerza del Espíritu Santo para poder dar la vida cotidianamente, testimoniando hasta el final el amor de Dios con plena libertad y sin miedo, como lo han hecho tantos mártires en la historia y lo siguen haciendo tantos hermanos nuestros todavía hoy. Que el Señor los bendiga.

Com grande afeto, saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, e de modo particular os brasileiros de Avaré, Salvador, Cachoeira Paulista, bem como os sacerdotes da Sociedade dos Joseleitos de Cristo e os fiéis da Diocese de Coxim, acompanhados pelo seu Bispo, Dom Antonino Migliore. Desejo a todos a graça de permanecer fiéis a Cristo Jesus, como nos ensinaram os mártires. O Espírito Santo vos ilumine para poderdes levar a Bênção de Deus a todos os homens. A Virgem Mãe vele sobre o vosso caminho e vos proteja.

[Con grande affetto saluto i pellegrini di lingua portoghese, in particolare i brasiliani di Avaré, Salvador, Cachoeira Paulista, come pure i sacerdoti della Sociedade dos Joseleitos de Cristo e i fedeli della Diocesi di Coxim, accompagnati dal loro Vescovo Mons. Antonino Migliore. Auguro a ciascuno la grazia di rimanere fedeli a Cristo Gesù come ci hanno insegnato i martiri. Lo Spirito Santo vi illumini affinché possiate portare la Benedizione di Dio a tutti gli uomini. La Vergine Madre vegli sul vostro cammino e vi protegga.]

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، وخاصةً بوفد الطلاب القادمين من مختلف أنحاء الشرق الأوسط. أيها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزاء، الشهداء هم أولئك الرجال والنساء الأمناء لقوّة الحب الوديع وصوت الروح القدس، والذين يسعون في حياتهم اليومية لمساعدة الإخوة ومحبّة الله بدون تحفظات؛ هم يعلموننا أنّه بإمكاننا أن نجاهد بقوّة المحبّة والوداعة ضد التسلُّط والعنف والحرب، وأن نحقق السلام بصبر. ليبارككُم الرّبّ!

[Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua araba, in particolare alla Delegazione Studenti Medio Oriente! Cari fratelli e sorelle, i martiri sono quegli uomini e quelle donne fedeli alla forza mite dell’amore, alla voce dello Spirito Santo, che nella vita di ogni giorno cercano di aiutare i fratelli e di amare Dio senza riserve; essi ci insegnano che, con la forza dell’amore, con la mitezza, si può lottare contro la prepotenza, la violenza, la guerra e si può realizzare con pazienza la pace. Il Signore vi benedica!]

Serdecznie pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów. Drodzy bracia i siostry, historia Kościoła od samego początku jest związana z ewangelizacją przez głoszenie Słowa, troskę o biednych i wierność Chrystusowi aż do męczeństwa. Prośmy Pana, abyśmy i my mogli żyć życiem pełnym, dając świadectwo i przyjmując męczeństwo codziennej wierności Ewangelii i Chrystusowi. Z serca wam błogosławię!

[Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini polacchi. Cari fratelli e sorelle, la storia della Chiesa sin dall’inizio è legata all’evangelizzazione attraverso la proclamazione della Parola, la cura dei poveri e la testimonianza della fedeltà a Cristo fino al martirio. Chiediamo al Signore che anche noi possiamo vivere una vita piena, portando la testimonianza e accogliendo il martirio della fedeltà quotidiana al Vangelo e a Cristo. Vi benedico di cuore!]

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana.

Sono lieto di accogliere i partecipanti ai Capitoli Generali dei Missionari della Sacra Famiglia, delle Suore di San Paolo di Chartres, delle Suore Missionarie di San Pietro Claver. Esorto ad aprirsi docilmente allo Spirito Santo per discernere vie nuove nel vivere i rispettivi carismi di fondazione. Saluto i Fratelli della Sacra Famiglia, i Membri della Famiglia Carmelitana, e quanti prendono parte al Corso promosso da “Rome International Seminar 2019”.

Saluto inoltre le Parrocchie di Campocavallo di Osimo, con l’arcivescovo di Ancona, mons. Spina, e di Viggianello, l’Associazione italiana Vittime della violenza, l’Opera San Francesco per i Poveri di Brescia, e i Gruppi Zordan di Valdagno e Noi-Huntington.

Un pensiero particolare rivolgo ai giovani, agli anziani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli.

Venerdì prossimo celebreremo la memoria di San Vincenzo de’ Paoli, Fondatore e Patrono di tutte le Associazioni di Carità. L’esempio di carità datoci da san Vincenzo de’ Paoli, conduca tutti noi ad un gioioso e disinteressato servizio ai più bisognosi, e vi apra al dovere dell’ospitalità e al dono della vita."