The devil is behind the hatred of the Christian faith that drives oppressors to persecute believers, Pope Francis has said.
"With his death and resurrection, [Jesus] rescued us from the power of this world, the power of the devil, and the prince of the world doesn't want this," Francis said during a speech delivered at Rome's St. Bartholomew Basilica in memory of the "New Martyrs" of the 20th and 21st centuries, Crux Now reports.
"Because we were saved by Jesus, and the prince of the world doesn't want this, he hates us and provokes the persecution," the pope said.
Pope Francis also said that the Church today needs martyrs and said martyrdom "is a grace from God, not courage."
"What does the Church need today?" he asked, before responding: "Martyrs, witnesses, this means, every-day-saints, those who lead ordinary lives, carried forward with consistency; but also those who have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses to the end, to their death."
The heritage of the martyrs, Francis said, "gifts us today peace and unity. They teach us that, with the strength of love, with tenderness, you can fight bullying, violence, war, and that with patience, peace can be achieved."
Francis' comments came after three people associated with modern-day martyrs shared their own experiences. These included Roselyne Hamel, sister of Father Jacques Hamel, murdered last year at 85, while he was saying Mass in France; Francisco Hernandez, who spoke about William Quijano, a 21-year old man killed in El Salvador in 2009, for trying to keep young people out of gangs; and Karl A. Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, the first Protestant minister to be martyred by the Nazis.
Nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their beliefs in violent and gruesome attacks last year, according to a report by the Center for Studies on New Religions, making believers the most persecuted group in the world.
The director of CESNUR, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, told Breitbart News that previously, atheistic communist regimes were the greatest persecutors of Christians. However, in the last century, those who adhere to "Islamic ultra-fundamentalism" are the primary persecutors of Christians.
The 2016 "World Watch List" published by the Open Doors organization also found that nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer "extreme persecution" had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim.
Their 2016 report revealed that "Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine" of Christians in the world today and that "40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution."
"The place where persecution of Christians is being most severely experienced is the very place where Christianity all began," Cardinal Wuerl said, according to Breitbart News. "In that region of the world is the birthplace of the Christian faith."
Speaking to Fox News, Sebastian Francis Shaw, spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church's archdiocese of Lahore, Pakistan, said to counter the increasing persecution, it's important for Christians to engage in humanitarian outreach to their neighbors -- not seek outside military intervention to stop the persecution.
"[Such humanitarian efforts] should not be interpreted as helping Christians, but helping humanity," the cleric, who has been archbishop since 2013, said. "Direct [military] intervention will create problems, but what I think can be done, if not directly, is more of a humanitarian base."
He added, "Then they [Muslims] will see that these Christians are helping them also, as well as their own community."