Persecution is the work of the devil, and while anti-Christian persecution is evident in many parts of the world, the devil also is attacking the image and likeness of God present in many other people as well, Pope Francis said.

"In the world today, Christians are not the only ones being persecuted; human beings, man and woman, are because the father of every persecution cannot tolerate that they are the image and likeness of God. So he attacks and destroys that image," Pope Francis said June 1 during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

From the beginning of time, as the Book of Genesis recounts, he said, the devil has tried "to destroy that harmony between man and woman that the Lord created, that harmony that derives from being the image and likeness of God."

The injustice that leaves millions of people starving, exploitation, modern slavery and torture -- "even 70 years after the (U.N.) Declaration of Human Rights" -- are all forms of persecution, he said.

"Cultural colonization," or the pressure some nations place on others to accept practices that go against their own culture, is another form of persecution, the pope said. Pope Francis often has denounced the practice by which wealthy donor nations try to impose acceptance of abortion, contraception or liberal attitudes toward homosexuality and gay marriage on poorer countries as a condition for aid.

The list must include war, which is one of the major "instruments of the destruction of people, of the image of God," he said, and those who plan war and traffic weapons are involved in destroying what God created.

In the biblical story of Adam and Eve, he said, the devil was able to succeed by using "trickery, seduction. These are the weapons he uses."

"Today, too, there is a force -- I'd call it a rage -- against men and women," Pope Francis said.

Copyright ©2018 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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