Pope Francis orders listing of new Christian martyrs

Pope Francis appears at his studio's window overlooking St. Peter's Square at The Vatican on St. Peter and Paul's Day, Thursday, June 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The number of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the witness of Christ and the Gospel is higher now than in the first centuries of Christianity, Pope Francis wrote in a document issued on Wednesday after ordering a census of martyrs who have died in the last quarter of a century.

The Commission for the New Martyrs – Witnesses of the Faith is responsible for compiling a list of those whose blood has been shed for the witness of Christ and the Gospel over the last 25 years. The papal document stresses that the work of cataloging is not limited to Catholic martyrs.

According to Pope Francis’ decree, the census of the martyrs of the present day is a preparation for the Jubilee Holy Year of 2025.

“Martyrs have accompanied the life of the Church in every age and flourish as ‘ripe and excellent fruits of the vineyard of the Lord’ even today,” the pope explained. “Martyrs are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries: They are bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people and families, who in the different countries of the world, with the gift of their lives, have offered the supreme proof of charity.”

“In our time, Christians do not renounce the life-affirming power of baptism that unites them, even in the most dangerous situations,” he added.

The head of the Catholic Church said the list of new martyrs represents “a continuing of the historical reconnaissance to gather the testimonies of life, up to the shedding of blood, of these sisters and brothers of ours, so that their memory may stand out as a treasure that the Christian community safeguards. The research will concern not only the Catholic Church but extend to all Christian denominations.”

In addition to the Christian martyrs officially recognized by the Church, the commission set up by the pope will also search for lesser-known or as yet anonymous martyrs, with the help of local churches, Christian communities, and other institutions.

The commission is headed by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The vice-chair is Professor Andrea Ricciardi, a historian and founder of the Community of Saint Peter’s, and its secretary is the parish priest Marco Gnavi, who has been involved in the project of locating martyrs since 2000. The 14-member working group also includes several priests from the developing world.

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