Rome (Agenzia Fides) - Martyrs in the Church "are witnesses of the hope that comes from faith in Christ and incites to true charity".
They "have accompanied the life of the Church in every age", and flourish as "ripe and excellent fruits of the Lord's Vineyard" even today. Even today, the memory of the martyrs represents a "treasure" that the Christian community is called to guard. For this reason, in view of the forthcoming Jubilee of 2025, Pope Francis has established at the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints the “Commission of the New Martyrs - Witnesses of the Faith”, "to draw up a Catalogue of all those who have shed their blood to confess Christ and bear witness to His Gospel". The Pontiff announced the establishment of the Commission and explained the reasons for his decision in a Letter released today by the Holy See Press Office, which bears the date Monday, July 3, 2023.
The Commission - Pope Francis explained - will continue the search, "already begun on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000, to identify the Witnesses of the Faith in this first quarter of the century and to continue in the future". Already on May 7, 2000 - the Pontiff pointed out - the new martyrs and witnesses of the faith "were recalled in an ecumenical celebration, which saw gathered at the Colosseum representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities from all over the world, to evoke, together with the Bishop of Rome, the richness of what I later called “ecumenism of the blood”. In the coming Jubilee - Pope Francis announced - we will also be united in a similar celebration".
The martyrs, the Pontiff emphasized in his letter, taking up a consideration he had already proposed on several occasions "are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries". The new martyrs "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 (cf. LG 42)".
With the initiative announced today - the Bishop of Rome clarified - "the intention is not to establish new criteria for the canonical ascertainment of martyrdom, but to continue the survey already underway of those who, to this day, continue to be killed simply because they are Christians". In this perspective, it is therefore a matter of "continuing historical research in order to gather the testimonies of life, up to the shedding of blood, of these sisters and brothers of ours, so that their memory can stand as a treasure cherished by the Christian community". Pope Francis also emphasized the ecumenical aspect of the initiative, specifying that the research "will concern not only the Catholic Church, but will extend to all Christian denominations".
The Commission established by the Pontiff will be required to "avail itself of the active contribution of the particular Churches in their structures, of religious institutes and of all other Christian realities".
The newly established Commission of the New Martyrs – Witnesses of the Faith will be chaired by Archbishop Fabio Fabene, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints; Vice President Professor Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community. Fr. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, O.F.M.Conv.; Secretary General of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU), who from 2021 to 2022 was also the Director of Fides Agency, was also appointed among the members of the Commission. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 5/7/2023)