"What I would like to be clear on is one thing, I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church. Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it's not because of fantasy, it’s because of the numbers." - Pope Francis
Since Francis brought up the subject of fantasy, let's consider some of the numbers. The Roman Empire apparently left no accurate record of how many Christians were executed during the first centuries of the Church. The origin of Francis' "numbers" from those years is a mystery.
Tallies of Christian "martyrs" in modern times, such as those by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, estimate that there are 100,000 Christian martyrs per year (line 28). The origin of this number is less mysterious:
"So when you hear that 100,000 Christians are dying for their faith, you need to keep in mind that the vast majority - 90,000 - are people who were killed in DR Congo. [...] The DRC is a Christian country. In the civil war, Christians were killing Christians. In earlier estimates of martyrs, CSGC included killings that occurred in the Rwandan genocide. Again this is puzzling. It was not a conflict about religion - it was a case of Hutus killing Tutsis, and both sides were Christian." - BBC News
Apparently, Christians killing Christians for reasons unrelated to religion is martyrdom. It's safe to file that under "fantasy".
Even granting 100,000 Christian martyrs per year, note the difference in global population from 200 CE to today, which is 205 million and 7.24 billion respectively. Likewise, note that Christians numbered perhaps 217,000 in 200 CE compared with 6.9 billion in 2010 CE. Today, martyring 100,000 Christians per year means 69,000 years to wipe out Christendom, assuming no growth. Back in "the first centuries", martyr the same number and (with no growth) in 26 months there is no more Church.
Are you actually accusing the church of exaggeration, rewriting history, and manipulation of or outright fabrication of facts to suit their agenda?
I believe that Pope Francis is referring to the fact that Christian communities throughout the middle east are being systematically exterminated as they get caught between the Sunni-Shiite proxy war. The Iraqi Christian community is largely gone. The Syrian Christians likewise have been driven out, and the Egyptian Christian community (and others throughout the pan-Arabic world) are being sorely tested.
These are all developments that have accelerated in recent years.
In this case as well, the Vatican is in a much better position to be collecting accurate and timely data than the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
The point I was trying to make, and that I believe GM was making, is that while the church may be in a great position to gather such data, the accuracy and truthfulness of their reporting of such data is suspect, due to their own track record of misrepresentation and fabrication.
Another case in point: The church was/is in the perfect position to gather and report on incidents of child sex abuse in the church. They were neither truthful about those incidents occurring nor accurate about the number of incidents.