VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said he cried when he recently saw images of Christians allegedly killed by crucifixion.

“Still today there are people who kill, who persecute in the name of God,” he said May 2 during the homily at the early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence. And still today there are Christians who, like the Apostles, are “happy to be judged worthy of suffering dishonor for Christ’s name.”

“I cried when I saw in the media” photographs allegedly showing “Christians crucified in a certain non-Christian country,” he told those at the Mass, according to a report by Vatican Radio. In late April, a number of news outlets reprinted photographs showing what were described as crucifixions in Syria.


New outlets that reprinted or posted the images online said they could not confirm that the bodies hung on crosses died by crucifixion or that they were Christians.

Today, Pope Francis said, there are many people who are persecuted for their faith. “In some countries, people go to jail just for having a Bible” while in others “people can’t wear a cross or they will be fined. But their hearts are happy.”

At the pope’s Mass, the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (5:34-42) recounted how members of the Sanhedrin, a religious court, were discussing how to deal with disciples who continued to preach about Jesus. “They had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them,” the Bible says.

The members of the Sanhedrin, the pope said, had authority over the religious lives of the people at the time, but Jesus had described them as “weighing people down with oppressive burdens.”

They were jealous of Jesus and could not stand that people were following him, Pope Francis said. “They could not tolerate Jesus’ meekness, could not tolerate the meekness of the Gospel, could not tolerate love.”

Pope Francis said that unlike the authorities on the Sanhedrin, Jesus was not concerned about how many people followed him — “it never entered his head, for example, to take a census” — but rather, “he spoke, he preached, he loved, accompanied and walked with people, meek and humble.”