VATICAN - Pope Francis commemorates the martyrs killed in Libya: "They have received the greatest gift that a Christian can receive"

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The 21 martyrs of Libya killed by Daesh jihadists on a beach not far from the Libyan city of Sirte said shortly before they died: "Lord Jesus!". In confessing the name of Jesus while they were being executed, "they received the greatest gift a Christian can receive: the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to the sacrifice of their own life". For this reason now "they are our Saints of all Christians, Saints of all Christian denominations and traditions. They are those who have blanched their lives in the blood of the Lamb, they are those... of the people of God, the faithful people of God". With these words Pope Francis remembered the 21 Christian workers - 20 Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians and their Ghanaian Work colleagues - who were beheaded by the affiliates of the Islamic State in February 2015. The Bishop of Rome expressed his personal memory of the martyrs of Libya in a video message on the "Day of Contemporary Martyrs", organized by the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of London on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the massacre. The initiative, held in the form of a webinar, was attended by, among others, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
In his video message, Pope Francis said he would keep the memory of February 2015 in his heart: "I hold in my heart that baptism of blood, those twenty-one men baptised as Christians with water and the Spirit, and that day also baptised with blood". The Successor of Peter also underlined how the experience of martyrdom reached those baptized in the framework of their ordinary lives: "They had gone to work abroad to support their families: ordinary men, fathers of families, men with the illusion [desire] to have children; men with the dignity of workers, who not only seek to bring home bread, but to bring it home with the dignity of work. And these men bore witness to Jesus Christ. Their throats slit by the brutality of Isis, they died saying: “Lord Jesus!”, confessing the name of Jesus". In the history of the martyrs of Libya, the essence and correct source of martyrdom in the Christian experience become shiningly visible: "It is true" the Pope pointed out "that this was a tragedy, that these people lost their lives on that beach; but it is also true that the beach was blessed by their blood. And it is even more true that from their simplicity, from their simple but consistent faith, they received the greatest gift a Christian can receive: bearing witness to Jesus Christ to the point of giving their life". For this reason, the Church has never "complained" about her martyrs, and has always celebrated them as those who were allowed to experience the merits of Christ's suffering in their own lives. That is why Pope Francis also thanked God our Father in his video message, gave thanks to "God our Father because he gave us these courageous brothers. I thank the Holy Spirit" the Pope continued "because He gave them the strength and consistency to confess Jesus Christ to the point of shedding blood. I thank the bishops, the priests of the Coptic sister church which raised them and taught them to grow in the faith. And I thank the mothers of these people, of these twenty-one men, who "nursed" them in the faith: they are the mothers of God's holy people who transmit the faith "in dialect", a dialect that goes beyond languages, the dialect of belonging". At the end of his speech, the Bishop of Rome confirmed his spiritual communion with the Bishops present and with all the "holy faithful people of God who in their simplicity, with their consistency and inconsistencies, with their graces and sins, carry forth the confession of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is Lord". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 16/2/2021)