Pope remembers victims of religious persecution

Posted: Friday, January 02, 2004

VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope John Paul II urged those who suffer for their faith to hold to their beliefs and not hate their persecutors.

The pontiff's brief remarks cited St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose feast day is marked by the Catholic church on Dec. 26.

''Today I would like to remember in a special way the Christian communities that undergo persecution, and all the faithful who suffer for faith,'' he told several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square last week. ''May the Lord give them the strength of perseverance and the capacity to love even those who make them suffer.''

The 83-year-old pontiff, who suffers from Parkinson's disease as well as hip and knee ailments, has carried out several tiring Christmas activities. John Paul delivered his traditional Christmas Day blessing just hours after celebrating Midnight Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica.

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