VATICAN - The Commission of the New Martyrs draws on surveys published every end of the year by Fides Agency

Tuesday, 14 November 2023 martyrs   missionaries killed   pope francis  

Foto La Croix

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The "Commission of the New Martyrs - Witnesses of the Faith" established by Pope Francis in view of the forthcoming Jubilee of 2025. The working group's objective will be to draw up a catalogue of new Christian martyrs since 2000 who "shed their blood to confess Christ and bear witness to the Gospel". In its work, the Commission will rely, among other things, on the surveys published by Fides every year. This was reported in a communiqué issued after the meeting of the Commission on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints under whose aegis it operates at Pope Francis' request.

"The survey of Christian victims and the offering of their lives by lay people, pastors, consecrated men and women," says the communication issued by the Dicastery "will make use of the efforts already made by Fides and other agencies, but also "of new research, assisted by the bishops, religious congregations, and those who guard the memory of these Christians". In the first phase, the Commission's preliminary work will focus on Christians "whose lives were cut short or given in various ways in obedience to the Gospel, in the time span from the year 2000 to the present". "Currently", the communiqué says, "there are over 550 witnesses whose circumstances of death and their service to the Church and God's people are known".

During its working session, the Commission decided, among other things, to examine with particular attention the contribution of the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the Middle East and the Churches of Asia. In addition, "the ecumenical value of martyrdom in a broad sense and the need to take into account the richness of the witness offered by Christians of other confessions was also recalled".

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, in the person of the President of the Commission, Archbishop Fabio Fabene, "provided the Commission with the necessary instruments to carry out the task assigned to it". Together with the vice-president, Professor Andrea Riccardi, "previous research has been revisited, drawing suggestions for future research".

The Pontiff had announced the establishment of the Commission and explained the reasons for his decision in a Letter dated Monday, July 3, 2023 (see Fides, 5/7/2023). "The martyrs in the Church" we read in that pontifical letter "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.

Among the members of the Commission there is also Father Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, O.F.M.Conv., Secretary General of the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU), who was also Director of Fides from 2021 to 2022. In the annual reports on murdered missionaries published by Fides since the 1980s and edited in recent years by Stefano Lodigiani, what is particularly striking is the sparse biographical information on the individual victims and the sober description of the details and circumstances of their violent deaths. Most of them were killed not during high-risk missions, but in everyday life in their apostolic work, selflessly sacrificing for the good of all, including - sometimes - their own murderers. The 2016 report also mentioned the name of Father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slaughtered near the altar of the Eucharist in his church in Rouen. The 2020 dossier also reported the death of Father Roberto Malgesini, a priest from Lombardy who was stabbed to death by one of the countless people he helped free of charge. The dossier, published at the end of 2022, told the story of the doctor and religious sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki, who was killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo by a gang of jihadists who attacked the health center where she was about to operate on a woman. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/11/2023)