Pope at Angelus: May we improve our capacity to forgive

Addressing the faithful gathered on the feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis urges us to remember the martyrs, past and present, and especially Saint Stephen, in order to learn from his capacity to forgive.

By Francesca Merlo

During his Angelus prayer for the feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square and reminded them that the liturgy that helped us welcome the Nativity of the Lord on Sunday extends until 1 January, the eight days of the octave of Christmas.

Days of martyrdom

Yet, he noted that these same eight days commemorate some “dramatic figures” of martyred saints.

Today, Monday, is Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr and on Wednesday, the Holy Innocents, the infants killed by King Herod for fear that Jesus would take away his throne.

“In short”, the Pope said, “the liturgy really seems to want to steer us away from the world of lights, lunches and gifts in which we might indulge somewhat in these days.”

Pope Francis went on to explain that “Christmas is not the fairytale of the birth of a king, but the coming of the Saviour, who frees us from evil by taking upon himself our evil: selfishness, sin, death.”

To bear witness

The Pope pointed out that the martyrs are those who are most similar to Jesus.

“The word martyr means witness: the martyrs are witnesses, that is, brothers and sisters who, through their lives, show us Jesus, who conquered evil with mercy.”

There are many martyrs even today, he added, inviting everyone always to pray for them, as we work to improve the way in which we bear witness ourselves. “We can indeed be helped by the figure of Saint Stephen,” he said.


The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Stephen was one of the seven deacons that the community of Jerusalem had consecrated for table service, for charity.

“This means that his first witness was not given in words, but through the love with which he served those most in need,” explained the Pope.

However, he said, Stephen “did not limit himself to this work of assistance” but rather “spoke of Jesus to those he met."


The second dimension of St. Stephen's witness, said the Pope, consisted in welcoming the Word and communicating His beauty, telling how the encounter with Jesus changes our lives.

Also, Stephen was never intimidated. His greatest testimony, added the Pope was charity and proclamation. “He left it to us at the point of his death when, following the example of Jesus, he forgave his killers,” stressed the Pope.  

Bringing his catechesis to an end, Pope Francis noted that this is where the answer to our question lies.

“We can improve our witness through charity towards our brothers and sisters, fidelity to the Word of God, and forgiveness.”

"It is forgiveness that tells whether we truly practice charity towards others, and if we live the Word of God," he said.

Finally, Pope Francis asked that we "think of our capacity to forgive, in these days in which perhaps we encounter, among the many, some people with whom we have not got along, who have hurt us, with whom we have never patched up our relationship.”

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26 December 2022, 12:08

The Angelus is a special prayer recited by Catholics three times a day, at 6am, noon, and 6pm and is accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell. The name comes from the Latin word for Angel and the prayer itself reminds us of how Jesus Christ assumed our human nature through the Mystery of the Incarnation.
The Pope recites the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square every Sunday at midday.
He also gives a brief reflection on the Gospel of the day and often comments on some issue of international concern. The Pope’s words are broadcast all over the world on radio and television and widely shared on social media.
From Easter to Pentecost the Regina Coeli is prayed instead of the Angelus. This prayer commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and, like the Angelus, concludes with the recitation of the Gloria three times.

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