Memorial of New Martyrs in the Church of St Bartholomew in Rome Memorial of New Martyrs in the Church of St Bartholomew in Rome 

Day of Missionary Martyrs. Cardinal Cupich: Martyrs teach us the power of love

On the eve of the Day of Missionary Martyrs, on March 24, the Archbishop of Chicago attends the inauguration of a Memorial of the New Martyrs of the XX and XXI centuries in the Roman Basilica of St. Bartholomew exposing several relics the church has been collecting since the Great Jubilee of 2000.

By Lisa Zengarini

On March 24, the Church marks the thirty-first Day of the Missionary Martyrs commemorating the assassination of St. Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was brutally murdered while celebrating Mass in 1980.

The theme chosen for this year resumes Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Day 2022: “You shall be my witnesses”, drawn from Jesus’ words to the disciples before ascending into heaven (Acts 1,8).

The martyrs of our times

Those words find an echo still today in the several martyrs of our times who continue to bring the Gospel to the peripheries of the world even as they face death for their witness to Christ.

According to Fides Agency’s latest annual report, 18 missionaries were killed in 2022: 12 priests, 1 religious, 3 religious, 1 seminarian, 1 layman, bringing the total number to 544 since the beginning of the century. The highest number was recorded in Africa with 9 martyrs, followed by Latin America, with 8 martyrs and finally Asia which recorded a missionary killed. Many others were killed in the 20th century.

To commemorate them the Roman Basilica of St Bartholomew in Rome has opened a special Memorial of the New Martyrs of the XX and XXI centuries in its crypt, exposing several relics it has been collecting since the Great Jubilee of 2000, when Pope St. John Paul II decided to make the church a memorial site of the New Martyrs.  

Relics and testimonies from all the continents

The exposition space presents relics and testimonies from all the continents, including those of martyrs of Communism and Nazism, of those killed while serving the poor and the cause of justice, dialogue and peace, of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, starting with the Armenians and Syriacs killed in the massacres during the First World War, as well as of martyrs of the Mafia.

Among relics exposed, the chasuble of the Archbishop Romero, the stole of Fr. Andrea Santoro, the Italian priest killed in 2006 by a young Muslim in Trebisonda, Turkey, the tunic of Archbishop Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq, murdered  by terrorists in 2008 at the hands of terrorists , the miter of Italian Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia in Turkey, murdered by his driver in  2010.

Attending the inaugural ceremony on Thursday evening were the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Angelo De Donatis, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, to which the church has been entrusted since 1993. Also present was Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and titular of the Roman Basilica, whose archdiocese contributed financially to the project.

We are all pilgrims and witnesses of Christ

In his remarks Cardinal Cupich noted that the Memorial in the Roman Church reminds Christians  that we are “all pilgrims and witnesses of Christ” in everyday life, and that  “Rome is a crossroads for foreigners” from all over the world, who have borne abundant fruit over the centuries .

A relic of Fr. Stanley Francis Rother

The Archbishop of Chicago said he was "honoured" by the presence in the Memorial of the relic of Fr. Stanley Francis Rother, an American missionary priest shot dead in Guatemala in 1981 for his social engagement for local indigenous peoples and beatified in 2017, remarking that he was the first U.S. born martyr missionary to be beatified. Martyrs teach us that with the power of love you can fight arrogance. They reveal the unity of humanity and have the power to rebuild fraternity among all peoples", Cardinal Cupich concluded.

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24 March 2023, 17:19