Vatican, Dec. 26 (CWNews.com) - "To profess one's Christian faith requires the heroism of martyrs" in many parts of the world today, Pope Benedict XVI observed on the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
In a midday audience on December 26, the Holy Father went on to say that even in countries where the Church does not suffer persecution, believers must often "pay a high price" for living according to the principles of the Gospel.
The Pope renewed his Christmas greetings to the world, using several different languages. But amidst the joy of the season he also asked his audience to remember the struggle for religious freedom, and those Christians who still suffer for the faith.
Pope Benedict appeared at the window of his apartment on Monday, leading the Angelus prayer in public for the final time in 2005. He will hold his regular weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, December 28. His next Angelus audience will be on January 1.
The Pope's schedule of public appearances is unusually full in coming days. He will lead a Vespers service on December 31, including the traditional Te Deum for the blessings of the passing year. On January 1 he will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and formally deliver his message for the World Day of Peace. On January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, he will again preside at Mass in the Vatican basilica, and on January 8, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, he will baptize several babies in the Sistine Chapel.