VATICAN - PAPAL MESSAGE TO PONTIFICAL ACADEMIES: “THE NUMEROUS WITNESSES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH WHO LIVED IN THE LAST CENTURY WHO PERSEVERED IN THEIR ADHESION TO THE GOSPEL IN SITUATIONS OF HOSTILITY AND PERSECUTION ARE A SIGN OF HOPE FIRST OF ALL FOR THE CHURCHES OF EUROPE”

Friday, 7 November 2003

Vatican City (Fides) – “Christ’s disciples are called to contemplate and imitate the numerous witnesses of the Christian faith of the last century, in the East and the West, who persevered in their adhesion to the Gospel in situations of hostility and persecution often to the supreme trial of bloodshed. These witnesses are a convincing sign of hope first of all for the Churches of Europe. In fact they testify the vitality and fecundity of the Gospel also in the world of today. They are truly a beacon of light for the Church and for humanity because they made Christ’s light shine in the darkness”. This is part of a message addressed by Pope John Paul II to Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Council for Co-ordination between the Pontifical Academies on the occasion of a Public Session of the Pontifical Academies on 6 November on the theme “The Martyrs and their monumental memory, living stones in the construction of Europe.”
The Holy Father said that the theme chosen “intends to offer a singular key of interpretation to the epochal turning point we are living in Europe. It is a matter of rediscovering the profound link between the history of yesterday and that of today, between the evangelical witness offered courageously in the early centuries of the Christian era by many men and women and the testimony which, also in our day, no few believers in Christ continue to offer to the world to reaffirm the primate of the Gospel of Christ and of charity. If we were to lose the memory of those Christians who gave their lives to affirm their faith, the present day, which its projects and ideals, would lose a valuable component because the great human and religious values would not longer be supported by concrete testimony inserted in history.”
The Message recalls that today in Europe persecution “is fortunately no longer a problem” although Christians “must often face forms of hostility more or less evident and this calls for clear and courageous witness”. “Together with all people of goodwill, they are called to build a real "common home", which must be not only a political and economic-financial building, but rather a "home" rich in memories, values, spiritual contents. These values have found and they still find in the Cross an eloquent symbol, in which they are summarised and expressed”. Lastly the Pope says that the memory of those who have sought to serve Christ faithfully with martyrdom must never be lost: “It falls to us therefore, to collect this singular and most precious heritage, this unique and exceptional patrimony, as did the first generations of Christians who built over the martyrs tombs monumental shrines, basilicas and places of pilgrimage, to remind everyone of their supreme sacrifice.” (S.L.) (Fides Service 7/11/2003; lines 33 – words 461)


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