Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "The gift of life - both martyrdom in the proper sense, and the testimony of an existence spent gratuitously for God and for one’s neighbor - generates something new. This is the message that the missionary martyrs give: it is not living for oneself that bears fruit, but going beyond oneself. The grain of wheat bears fruit when it dies, recalls the evangelical symbol. This is the key to Christian existence. This symbol summarizes the call of every Christian, even youth": this is what Archbishop Gian Pietro Dal Toso, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMs), says in an interview with Agenzia Fides, introducing the "Day of prayer and fasting in memory of the missionary martyrs" who, taking inspiration from the martyrdom of Msgr. Oscar Arnulfo Romero, is celebrated every year on March 24.
As "Missio Italia" (the Pontifical Mission Societies of Italy) specifies, the celebration intends to "remember those who sacrificed their lives over the centuries proclaiming Christ and proclaiming the Gospel to the extreme consequences, both to remember the supreme value of life that is a gift for everyone".
Msgr. Dal Toso explains that "martyrdom has its own precise connotation: it is the killing of a baptized person in odium fidei, that is, in hatred of faith. But there are, on the other hand, many missionaries, who still offer and give their lives every day to witness the love of Christ to humanity".
The "Day of prayer and fasting in memory of the missionary martyrs" began in 1993 by the "Missionary Youth Movement". While today the Church is approaching the Synod dedicated to youth, Msgr. Dal Toso notes: "In the ancient Church there were many young martyrs. Thinking of them, we can say that the testimony of faith, even of blood, knows no limits: the call to the gift of life touches every baptized person, and young people can give a precious example. When you are younger you have a strong enthusiasm and willingness to give your life. There is so much generosity in the hearts of young people".
"I do not believe that today's young people - continues the President of the PMS - are less generous than past generations. Youth, like other ages of life, have endemic weaknesses, but even the millennials, the young people of today, show generosity: just think of the experiences of young people and volunteers who go to mission countries".
According to the Archbishop, the experiences of young martyrs, priests, religious and lay people will be significant in the next Synod on youth: "Their stories tell us that the measure of the Gospel cannot be reduced to a mere human possibility. There is something bigger that young people are called to: and young people are willing to respond. The example of young martyrs emphasizes that we cannot consider the young people of today less willing to offer themselves for something great, like the Gospel of Jesus Christ".
On the work of the Church, Msgr. Dal Toso points out: "The Church is called to take young people seriously, that is, not to reduce the Gospel to their desires, but to offer them the possibility of going beyond their schemes, in the perspective of the supreme gift of oneself. Moreover, young people can be subjects of evangelization to other young people: we already see it in Europe and in other parts of the world. For example, in the experience of martyrdom of 28-year-old Mario Borzaga, a young missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who, in the 60s of last century, gave his life in Laos, in a complicated situation from a geographical and political point of view. It is always valid - he concludes - what Tertullian says: the blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians. The Church always experiences it and remembers it today". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/3/2018)